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110 Storrs Hill Rd Lebanon, NH
Tomapo Farm, Lebanon, NH
Take a quick peek into the Tomapo Farm brochure and you’ll learn that the folks who tend to things on Storrs Hill “have been bringing you pure New Hampshire maple and other Yankee ingenuity,” since 1769. The farm on Storrs Hill Road dates back well over 200 years under one family. The U.S Department of Agriculture has recognized it as one of the few bicentennial farms in the country.
According to Heidi, “The name ‘Tomapo Farm’ came from my Aunt Marilyn back in the 50’s. My aunt was showing a heifer in a 4H competition at the age of 11 or 12 and needed a prefix name for the Registered Holstein Friesian Association for identifying bloodlines. She and her father created the name Tomapo, an acronym for Townsend’s Maple Orchard.” (Toe-may-poe). Bruce came back from college in the early 1960’s at which time he and his dad established a father/son partnership. They took Tomapo Farm for the partnership name. Today, Bruce operates as a sole proprietorship as Tomapo Farm, LLC.
Of the 395 acres of the present farm, only a small portion along Storrs Hill Road is not in conservation. “We decided to keep the development rights for land along the road in case of a family financial emergency,” Bruce’s wife Merinda said. The family has also granted a 35-acre easement to the city of Lebanon for ski area access.
With a sizeable sugar orchard and a logging business trees are the family’s livelihood. The Townsends must manage them carefully in order to regenerate tree growth. Forester Rick Evans walks the woodlot periodically, dating the approximate ages of trees and noting any that might be diseased. “He sees things that we never would have,” says Heidi. Using aerial photos as visual aid, Rick advises Bruce on what trees should be taken down now and a time frame for taking down others.
Select cutting is Bruce’s preferred method of cutting, thinning out and allowing neighboring trees to grow bigger. “Select cutting,” he says “prevents mature trees from dying and going to waste and allows trees to regenerate.” Clear cutting is a leading cause of erosion. It also brings in junk wood creating more work that must be done before the good logs can be harvested.
There have been some extremely rare circumstances that the farm permitted clear cutting. Several years ago an intense windstorm barreled through the farm, wiping out a 5-acre pine stand. The Townsends had been looking forward to harvesting some quality soft wood from this lot. In an effort to clean up the damage, clear cutting was permitted.
The Townsends do their logging during the colder months when the ground is firm. Numerous wet spots on Storrs Hill make getting a tractor safely in and out of the woods difficult during any other part of the year.
Cutting down trees is also less dangerous during the winter months. Without foliage the trees that are being felled are easier to see. Usually the loggers themselves bring the trees out of the woods. Often on Storrs Hill, Bruce, with Heidi’s help, “yard out the logs” using a tractor and winch, pulling four to five logs at a time to the wood landing in the barn yard. It is then stacked in preparation for transportation to the sawmill, turned into lumber with their own portable sawmill, or processed into firewood for sale to homeowners.
As with all farm jobs, there are particularly troublesome issues that are on-going and demand continuous attention. In the timber industry, it is locating loggers and timing their arrival so the farm can get the best price at the mill. To get top dollar for his logs, Bruce must co-ordinate finding a logger, his availability, the yarding out and cutting up the logs. The mill’s schedule and demand for logs, soft wood (e.g. pine, fir, and spruce) while others require hardwoods (e.g. maple, ash, beech, birch, poplar), is also added to the mix. Combining all of those factors with the uncertainty of the ever-changing weather creates some interesting challenges.
Even when felling trees, sugaring is never far from the minds of the family. In early Spring and Fall Heidi, uses a brush cutter with a sharp metal saw blade to cut away invasive Buckthorn, Multiflora Rose and other brush, This brush grows around the tubing and blocks the way for maintaining the tubing through which sap flows into large collection tanks at the side of the road. The family is in the process of the installing a vacuum system that will aid in doubling their yield and make gathering the sap from their 1425 taps a bit easier.
No matter what the system there’s no getting away from cutting the brush, repairing the lines, boiling the sap and turning their sweet liquid gold into candy in the Townsend’s candy kitchen. All it takes is a little will and a lot of that Yankee ingenuity.
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