Edgewater Farm, of Plainfield, NH is no stranger to conservation land. In 2016 Edgewater’s second generation of Farmers, Ray and Jenny Sprague, conserved the Putnam Homestead in Cornish, NH in order to support their thriving multigenerational fruit and vegetable business. Pooh and Anne Sprague began the farm in 1976, since then their children Sarah and Ray have joined the operation. As the years have gone by, the farm has continued to grow and the ability to expand their land base to support the next generation of farmers has been crucial. With some of the land that they currently rent in New Hampshire becoming unavailable, Pooh approached UVLT about finding farmland somewhere in the Upper Valley to support their growing business.
The Windsor Plateau – prime agricultural land rimmed with steep and heavy forests at the heart of downtown Windsor – came onto the market at the right time for Edgewater. The current owner, Matteo Paris, had been leasing the land to McNamara Dairy in Plainfield, NH for hay production but now wanted to sell. More than 10 years ago Edgewater had tried to purchase this same land, and UVLT had proposed purchasing a conservation easement on the land and selling to Edgewater. However that deal fell through. Now the Spragues have purchased those same 140 acres of fields and forests, with its 33 acres of farm fields, and will keep the land in agricultural operation, supporting generations of farmers.
The land that makes up the Windsor Plateau is thought to have once been an island in the vast prehistoric Lake Hitchcock. The plateau is located at the base of Mount Ascutney, a defunct volcano, and sits between Mill Pond and the Connecticut River. The Plateau’s location in the heart of the downtown have made it a focal point for town history, and a priority for conservation by Windsor residents. Previously this land, including its 33 acres of open fields made of prime agricultural soils, had been slated for development. In the 1990’s it was part of a proposed 121 unit condo development on Mill Pond. A downturn in the housing market meant that the development was much smaller than planned and the parcel remained untouched.
The protected property boasts open farmland, steep wooded hillsides, and a bald eagle nest. The conservation easement provides the Upper Valley Land Trust the opportunity to explore options for public access to the plateau, via an informal two mile trail system through the forest. The Town of Windsor has expressed an interest in connecting the downtown Windsor bike path with the Swoops and Loops trails at Mount Ascutney State Park. In addition to increased access to recreational trails, the town believes the large parcel of in town farm land would increase the desirability of Windsor’s downtown as a place to live and work in the Upper Valley.
The conservation and land access for farming at the Windsor Plateau wouldn’t have been possible without generous funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation , the vision of the former owner and Edgewater Farm, and the encouragement from the neighbors, Town of Windsor, and Mount Ascutney Regional Commission.