photo by Seb Rosemont
Bohanan Farm has been in existence since Lester Bohanan bought the land in 1907. From the 1930s on, the farm became primarily a dairy farm and has grown with every new generation. Lester’s great-grand-daughter, Heather, married Jaime Robertson, who currently manages the over 400-cow operation. In 2008 the family decided the best way to ensure the land remained unaltered for future generations was to place an easement on it. However the cost to do so was quite substantial and Jaime asked the Town of Hopkinton if they were interested in purchasing the development rights. Hopkinton’s Open Space Committee began building support for the idea among the voters while Five Rivers got involved and raised money through state and federal grants as well as generous private donations. The State of NH and the National Resource Conservation Service through its Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program also provided valuable assistance.
In the largest town meeting in the town’s history, Hopkinton residents overwhelmingly voted to preserve the farm. After the land was under easement, Jaime decided to widen the scope of the farm. He created the Contoocook Creamery and you can find their milk in traditional glass bottles in many local grocery stores. The Robertsons also sell eggs and have started raising cattle for beef, not just milking. Blueberry and raspberry patches are also in the works and should be ready for the public in a couple of seasons. Logging has always brought in extra income for the farm but is done in a sustainable manner. There are large cornfields on the property that produce about 50% of the cow’s feed over the course of the year.
For years there have been trails on the property that were open to the public but now that Hopkinton maintains them, there is a designated parking area and they are clearly mapped and marked. The Courser Hill Loop trail is a 2.3 mi round trip and starts from the parking area. It heads along the Contoocook River past a canoe and kayak launch, around a field and then cuts inwards towards Courser Hill. Once in the woods the trail divides into the loop portion. The trail has a long stretch through the woods and another sizeable stretch that cuts through Courser Hill pasture and over the top of the hill. At the top of the field there is a small grove of trees with an old cellar hole at the center. You should be aware that at certain times of the year there may be cows grazing in the pasture.
Across the road from the main farm, along Burrage Road, there is the 1.5 mi Blackwater River Loop trail. It cuts in past a cornfield and leads into the woods. There is a lookout point over the Blackwater River on the north-west part of the trail. The path also leads past several vernal pools. This trail is ideal for cross-country skiing and biking in addition to being a nice walking route.
After your hike, don’t forget to say hello to the cows. They’ll appreciate it.
New Executive Director
Five Rivers Transitions to First Full-Time Executive Director
In its recently updated Strategic Plan Five Rivers Conservation Trust’s Board of Trustees acknowledged the dramatic increase in the number of properties the Trust has conserved and the opportunities for more proactive conservation work, stronger partnerships, and even greater community involvement. To help realize these goals, Five Rivers has just announced that Beth McGuinn of Canterbury has been hired as its first full-time executive director.
McGuinn brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to Five Rivers. A long-time member of New Hampshire’s conservation community, she has held land conservation and stewardship positions in nonprofit and government entities, most recently as the Land Protection Specialist for Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust in New London. McGuinn has facilitated all aspects of land conservation: identifying conservation priorities, coordinating fundraising campaigns and raising grant funds, working with landowners. She has considerable experience working with communities and enjoys community work.
About her interest in the job McGuinn said, “I’ve lived in three of Five Rivers’ communities and worked in eight of them. This is where my sense of place is strongest, and where I’d like to apply my conservation experience and leadership skills.”
McGuinn is on the Board of the NH Land Trust Coalition, a licensed forester, and a strong communicator. She lives with her spouse Ruth Smith in an energy-efficient house they built together and raises chickens, vegetables, and trees for fruit and firewood.
“In addition to her experience with conservation easements, the Board was impressed by Beth’s ability to work well with people, her communication skills, her experience with accreditation (a national program that Five Rivers is preparing to apply for), and her familiarity with many of our supporters and the communities we serve,” said Board chair, Margaret Watkins.
McGuinn succeeds Jay Haines, who came to Five Rivers four years ago as its “part-time” Executive Director to build organizational capacity.
“It’s a mixed emotion moment for me,” says Haines, “For the past four years I’ve greatly enjoyed working with Five Rivers’ trustees, volunteers, and its supporting membership. I’m especially proud to have been a part of facilitating Five Rivers’ positioning for the future in both operational capacity and financial sustainability. The time has arrived for a full-time Director, and Beth brings both experience and the tools for its continued success.”
During Haines’s tenure as Executive Director, Five Rivers completed a record number of land conservation projects, including easements on Tioga Marsh in Belmont, the Ned and Jean Therrien forest in Canterbury, Maplewood Farm, Marjory Swope Park, and the Triacca fields abutting Dimond Hill Farm in Concord, the Farley farm in Dunbarton, four parcels totaling 85 acres owned by George and Anna Mae Twigg in Gilmanton, two easements in Hillsborough donated by Ken and Vicky Coffin and Hope Thomas, and field and forest land owned by Geraldine Phelps of Webster. Of the 21 easements completed (and 1,581 acres protected), 3 were first-time Five Rivers projects in Belmont, Pembroke, and Webster.
Five Rivers thrives on partnerships with easement donors and owners, other conservation organizations, local municipalities, and area businesses. Haines engaged new business partners, many of whom figured importantly in Five Rivers’ 25th anniversary celebrations this past year. Haines also helped create and grow Five Rivers’ Conservation Leaders Society, which has been instrumental in making possible the transition to a full-time executive director.
“Jay has brought vital changes to Five Rivers and helped lay the groundwork for Five River’s next growth spurt,” observed Watkins. “We appreciate all he has done for Five Rivers, a track record he will surely replicate in his new position as Director of the Overnight Cold Weather Shelter Program for the South Congregational Church in Concord. We’re also very excited for Five Rivers to have Beth McGuinn on board.”