New conservation easement will protect Nashua's last surviving working farm

Sunday News Correspondent
October 13. 2017 6:34PM

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess joins Kathy Williams, the owner of Sullivan Farm, at an event to celebrate an upcoming conservation easement that will preserve the city's last working farm. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

A vintage silo flanks the recently rebuilt barn at Sullivan Farm in Nashua. The farm is the object of a new conservation easement that will preserve it from being developed in the future. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

NASHUA -- The city is preparing to close on a major conservation easement that will preserve Nashua's last working farm from development.

"This has been a long process. It is good to know that this farm will always be here, even after we are long gone," said Kathy Williams, the owner of Sullivan Farm at 70 Coburn Ave.

Williams' grandfather bought the property, then a dairy farm, in 1911. Now, the farm is best known for its popular apple orchard and farmstand.

"I am a farmer, and I can't imagine doing anything else," said Williams.

While she has no intention of closing down Sullivan Farm, she does want to prepare for its future.

For the past 10 years, she has been working with city officials and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests on a proposed conservation easement for the farm. The easement will prevent the property from being subdivided or developed, help promote continued agricultural uses on the land and secure the farm as a historical natural resource for future generations.

"Sullivan Farm is a very important and beautiful feature in Nashua. It is our last surviving farm," said Mayor Jim Donchess. "This is a beautiful area of the city that we want to preserve into its natural state."

While there is still additional fundraising necessary in order to close the deal next year - most likely in the spring or early summer - organizers say they are in the final stretch of preserving part of Nashua's agricultural legacy.

"This is such a great asset for the community," said Madeleine Mineau, the city's waterways manager.

Several city officials gathered at the farm last week to celebrate the progress.

Known for its two-day AppleFest each fall, Sullivan Farm is a popular destination for apple picking or finding the perfect perennials, mums, pumpkins and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

The apple orchard was planted when Williams' father, Leopold Sedlewicz, took over the farm from his father, Joseph.

Families can be spotted walking through the orchard each fall weekend, or browsing the greenhouses while shopping for fresh produce and plants and visiting its two llamas.

Once the easement is official, Williams and her family will still own the land and could sell it, but any future owners would be required to continue operating it as a farm.

The city's conservation commission has been instrumental in helping to secure the easement, in part because the property abuts conservation areas in Hollis.

"We were determined to save the last farm in Nashua," said Sherry Dutzy, chairman of the conservation commission.

To date, $986,000 in grants have been secured to purchase the easement, including $213,000 from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, $20,000 from the New Hampshire Moose Plate grant program, $650,000 from a USDA Agricultural Land Easement Grant and $103,000 from the 1772 Foundation.

Williams owns three separate parcels at the farm that have a combined assessment value of nearly $450,000, according to city records. Mineau said the appraisal is currently being updated, so the cost of the conservation easement has not yet been finalized. However, Mineau said officials are hoping to secure up to $300,000 in additional funds - on top of the $986,000 - to make the deal official, which would also cover legal costs, survey work, grant documentation and more.

"We have been working on this project for over 10 years," said Ryan Young of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which holds about 700 easements statewide and is charged with conserving land, negotiating easements and advocating for forest preservation.

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