On July 12th, Willard Hunnwell and his sons donated a conservation easement to the Stowe Land Trust on 12 acres of their family’s farmland at the corner of Weeks Hill and Mayo Farm Roads in Stowe. The land includes the small barn on Weeks Hill Road and the pasture land next to the Quiet Path parking lot on Mayo Farm Road. To most who pass by, the land appears to be part of the conserved Mayo Farm. However, without the Hunnewells’ generous donation of a conservation easement, the land could have been developed.
Mr. Hunnewell and his wife, Dee, of Wellesley Massachusetts, began coming to Stowe to ski over 50 years ago. They bought the Weeks Hill land in the 1960s and over the years developed a deep attachment to the property and Stowe community. Dee passed away in 2013 and Mr. Hunnewell, now 95, wanted to make sure that the land that was so special to them stayed open and undeveloped into the future.
“I’m delighted to donate a conservation easement to the Stowe Land Trust and have the land conserved,” said Mr. Hunnewell.
Mr. Hunnewell comes from a long line of conservationists. The Hunnewell Conservation District in Wellesley was formed from a series of estates begun by businessman, landscape designer, and horticulturalist H. Hollis Hunnewell in the late 1840s. Starting in 1974, the Hunnewell family placed hundreds of acres of this land under perpetual conservation restrictions, primarily with The Trustees of Reservations which is the oldest regional land trust in the world.
Here in Stowe, Stowe Land Trust was happy to help Mr. Hunnewell meet the goal for his land while protecting productive farmland that is important to local farmers and the community. “We saw a huge level of community support for local farms and farming while working to protect the Kaiser Family Farm in Nebraska Valley earlier this year,” said Caitrin Maloney, Executive Director of the land trust. “I’m thrilled that we’re now able to build on that project by helping Mr. Hunnewell leave a legacy that protects more of Stowe’s remaining farmland and helps to support a thriving local food economy.”
Only 20% of the 5000 acres of farmland that remains available for agriculture in Stowe is permanently protected. Conserving even small parcels of productive land – especially those with good access and that are part of larger farming operations – can make a big difference for local farmers in a community where land is a premium commodity.
The Percy family has grazed dairy cows on the Hunnewells’ land and on neighboring pastures for more than 20 years. They still pasture heifers there today. The Hunnewell land provides good access to the rest of the pastures and keeps positive attention on local farms and farming. “A lot of people tell me how much they like seeing the heifers out there, “said Paul Percy. According to Percy, having the animals in such a visible and central place adds rural character to the town and reminds people where some of their favorite local foods – like Vermont cheddar cheese – come from.
In addition to protecting the Hunnewells’ land for farming and its scenic qualities, the easement ensures that the easement area will also remain open to the public to enjoy. This past winter, the Stowe Nordic Club groomed a new cross-country ski trail on Mayo Farm that crossed the Hunnewell land. Now, people will always be able to enjoy skiing or snowshoeing across the meadows.
David Norden, chair of the Stowe Land Trust Board of Directors, shared his appreciation: “On behalf of the Stowe Land Trust organization and its board of directors, I'd like to thank the Hunnewell family for this very generous donation of an easement that will protect this land - to be enjoyed by the entire Stowe community for generations to come.”
For more information on the Hunnewell Meadow conservation project or land conservation in the Stowe area, contact Caitrin Maloney at caitrin@ or 802.253.7221 for more information. stowelandtrust.org