The Hurd Farm, which has frontage on Timber Swamp and Towle Farm Roads in Hampton and Hampton Falls, is Hampton's last dairy farm and has been owned by the same family for more than 80 years. It's mix of farmland, forests, wetlands and more than one mile of river frontage have long made it a top town priority for protection.
Early in 2003, the Hampton Conservation Commission asked the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, for assistance in conserving the most important soils and river frontage on the Hurd Farm. In November 2004, TPL reached an agreement with the Hurd family to purchase the development rights, or a Conservation Easement, on roughly 135 acres in Hampton for $3 million. The conservation easement would: allow the farm to continue to operate; prevent other types of development on it; allow for public access and recreation along the river; and keep the land on the tax roles. Working with the Town, project partners have secured $600,000 in matching state and federal funds to date, and will seek additional grants to reduce the Town's final contribution. The protection of Hurd Farm will help preserve Hampton's agricultural heritage by saving the town's only remaining dairy farm, protect the watershed quality and provide for recreational access to the Taylor River.
Preserve Hampton's Agricultural Heritage
The last working dairy farm in Hampton, Hurd Farm has expansive scenic views of rolling fields along three town roads. This historic farm has long been a top open space priority for the town. Purchased in 1923 from Erin Coffin, who brought the first portable saw mill to Hampton, three generations of the Hurd family continue to live on the property today. Making the most of the property's prime and important farm soils, the Hurd family continues to actively farm more than 40 acres of the property for dairy, corn and hay production, and to selectively harvest from its surrounding woodlands. If protected, the Farm will serve as a place where families can view an active dairy and farming operation in a rapidly developing region. Sale of a Conservation Easement will allow the Hurd family to make needed investments in its farm infrastructure and continue to operate the farm.
Protect the Watershed Quality
Protection of Hurd Farm will help safeguard drinking water for nearby residents. The southern portion of Hurd Farm is within a wellhead protection area, meaning that it is important for preventing the contamination of public drinking water. In addition, the approximately 30 acres of wetlands and other water on Hurd Farm drain into the Taylor River across the Hampton Flats, a productive coastal estuary.
Provide Recreational Access to the Taylor River
Hurd Farm's extensive river frontage and trails create the perfect setting for fishing, launching a canoe or kayak, hiking, and other passive recreation. Should development occur on this site, one of the few remaining public access points to the river would be lost. This relatively unfragmented area also provides excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography along the river banks and wetlands. The Towns of Hampton and Hampton Falls are working on other conservation projects along the Taylor River that will help maintain a scenic river corridor accessible to the public.
Hampton's location and natural beauty have resulted in the area's rapid development. Based on local zoning, it is estimated that Hurd Farm could be developed with 120 or more new housing units. An appraisal commissioned by the town in 2002 valued the conservation easement at more than $6 million. The Hurd family has agreed to sell a conservation easement on this land for $3 million.
On March 9, Hampton voters will be asked to approve an open space bond to protect Hurd Farm. The farm's mix of historic, agricultural, natural resources, and recreational values make it a strong candidate for matching funds. Senator Gregg recently announced that he has appropriated $500,000 in federal funding for the protection of Hurd Farm. An additional $100,000 has been awarded by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). Together, these matching funds will reduce the town's final bond amount to $2.4 million. Project partners are also applying for funds from the Farmland Protection Program, which would further offset the Town's cost.
A $2.4 million bond will cost a single-family household assessed at $285,000 an average of $24 per year. Over time, though, the protection of Hurd Farm is likely to be less expensive for the town than if the site is developed with house lots because of the costs of providing for schools and other municipal services to a large-scale residential development on this site.
Questions and Answers
Why protect Hurd Farm?
Hurd Farm's mix of farm soils, forests, wetlands and extensive river frontage make it a top priority for protection by the Town of Hampton. Protection of Hurd Farm will help preserve Hampton's agricultural heritage by saving the town's only remaining dairy farm, protect the watershed quality and provide for recreational access to the Taylor River. It also makes good financial sense to conserve part of the Town's open space heritage for its citizens to enjoy, when developing it would cost the town more over time.
How will a Conservation Easement protect Hurd Farm?
The purchase of development rights or a Conservation Easement on Hurd Farm will prohibit non-farm development in the future, while allowing the Farm to remain in private ownership. The Conservation Easement would cover a total of 135+/- acres of the land in Hampton. It will exclude the family homes, barns and other farm buildings...
What are the source of funds for the purchase?
Recently Senator Gregg announced that he has appropriated $500,000 in federal coastal funds for the project. An additional $100,000 has been awarded by the state's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). Combined, these reduce the town's cost to $2.4 million. Project partners are working with the town to secure additional matching funds. Any additional grants will be used to further reduce the town's final bond amount.
What happens if the town does not approve funding for Hurd Farm?
The landowners have provided a one-time opportunity for the Town to protect the land and raise the cash needed to update farm infrastructure and continue operations. A two-thirds majority vote is needed to protect Hurd Farm. If voters do not approve the funding on March 9, the agreement with the landowners will expire and they will be under financial pressure to put the property on the market for residential development Based on local zoning, a developer would likely propose a large scale residential development with 120- or more housing units.
What is the average household cost of the purchase?
A bond of $2.4 million to protect Hurd Farm will cost the average Hampton household an estimated $24 per year. Over time, protection of Hurd Farm is likely to be less expensive for the town than if the site is developed with house lots. Cows don't go to school. Preserving Hurd Farm as a working farm will cost the town less in services than would a residential development.
Who supports the protection of Hurd Farm?
The project has the unanimous support of the Hampton Board of Selectmen, Hampton Budget Committee, Hampton Conservation Commission, and Hampton Open Space Committee.
[Note: Hampton voters approved the purchase of this property]