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NH Agrarian Commons Adds More Land Along Merrimack

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021   

LITCHFIELD, N.H. -- A 63-acre parcel of land along the Merrimack River is becoming part of the New Hampshire Agrarian Commons. The property, known as Normanton Farms, raises chicken, pork and grass-fed beef.

The Commons is a system of hybrid conservation and community land trusts aimed at increasing access to land for sustainable and regenerative farming.

Ian McSweeney, co-founder of Agrarian Commons who lives in New Hampshire, said it is filling a critical need. He noted the average farmer's income can barely cover the property tax, insurance and utility costs on a piece of property in Southern New Hampshire.

"We have an aging population and an aging farmland-ownership population," McSweeney explained. "So, [we have] the ability and need to think about both resilient landscapes and who are the successor farmers."

McSweeney added the Agrarian Commons is focused on chemical-free food production with a greater connection to the community.

At Normanton Farms, he said they'll work to diversify the habitat and build a healthy ecosystem for pollinators. They also plan to partner with the local elementary school to build community gardens, to help kids learn about food and how it's grown.

Steve Normanton, steward of Normanton Farms, said it's an opportunity not only to collaborate with other farmers, but to ensure when he retires, the Commons will find someone else to continue stewardship of the land.

He added since 2009, using regenerative farming techniques like rotating the animals on and off pastures has already built six additional inches of topsoil.

"We've done it in conjunction with no-tilling cover crops into the soil, just for more biomass, more trampling effect," Normanton outlined. "There are so many adaptive management tools that you can use."

He emphasized regenerative tools are especially important for the future of farming and food production. He pointed to the beginning of the pandemic, when many communities saw food flying off the store shelves, and stressed the food supply chain needs to be prepared for such emergencies.


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