Ballou Farm in Swanzey now conserved; 28 acres of riverfront land

Ballou’s farm includes 1,500 feet of frontage on the Ashuelot and 13 acres of low floodplains and river oxbows.

Keene, NH

Mary Ballou’s family has had ties to the Monadnock region for nearly two centuries. When it came time to retire, she was drawn to this region and, in particular, a beautiful small farm on the Ashuelot River in Swanzey.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” reflected Ballou. “I want the land to be available for use forever, and not be developed. I love to see the turtles at the river’s edge, and sometimes a fox comes across the field.” 

Ballou’s farm includes 1,500 feet of frontage on the Ashuelot and 13 acres of low floodplains and river oxbows, offering habitat for turtles, other reptiles, amphibians and other species — including the endangered dwarf wedge mussel — to live and reproduce. Stately silver maples line the river banks, along with black cherry, the rare swamp white oak, butternut and a variety of ferns. (Photos, photo credits and maps are available here:

This floodplain forest is home to vernal pools and shallow wetlands, all of which help filter and hold water as it makes its way downstream. The property also overlays a stratified drift aquifer. These natural features play critical roles in maintaining and improving water quality and managing high waters.

Through a partnership of the Monadnock Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire, this 28-acre property on Matthews Road in Swanzey has been conserved. The owners of the property, Mary Ballou and her nephew, James Ballou, voluntarily agreed to a conservation easement. The agreement prevents the land from ever being developed, but allows farming, forestry and recreation to continue.

“This type of property speaks to the region’s rural character with its scenic beauty, farming heritage and open views down to the river that people can enjoy from the rail trail,” said Stacy Gambrel, conservation project manager for the Monadnock Conservancy. “The Ballou Farm has one of the biggest fields left in this part of town; everything else has been built up with houses.”

“Swanzey is known for its farming and this preserves that legacy,” she added.

As a local land trust, the Monadnock Conservancy works with families and communities to conserve land and water in perpetuity. 

The Nature Conservancy is a science-based organization working across New Hampshire to establish resilient landscapes, foster healthy rivers and estuaries, and create a clean energy future.

“Floodplain forests are vital for people and nature, yet they are one of the most endangered habitats in the Connecticut River watershed,” said Jan McClure, director of land protection for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. “With this land now conserved, we are excited to work with Mary, the Monadnock Conservancy and our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service to launch New Hampshire’s largest-ever floodplain restoration project.”

Native silver maple, elm and other floodplain forest species will be planted, and invasive plants will be controlled. This work will make the habitat more resilient, less prone to erosion and better able to buffer against catastrophic flooding.

While the property’s lower flood-prone fields will be restored to floodplain forest, the upland fields (11 acres) will continue to be hayed.

“I think it’s great that the hay grown here stays local, so a farmer doesn’t have to buy hay from Canada,” Mary Ballou said. “Keeping land open for farming is vitally important.”

It takes strong partnerships to make land conservation a reality. The N.H. Department of Environmental Services’ Aquatic Resources Mitigation program awarded the Monadnock Conservancy funds to purchase a conservation easement on the property and to The Nature Conservancy to support the restoration work. The Town of Swanzey also contributed funds to the project through its Conservation Land Acquisition Capital Reserve Fund. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Swanzey Conservation Commission will help to fund the habitat restoration effort. Thanks to support from these funds as well as from The Nature Conservancy and from many community members and donors, another special place has been conserved.


The Monadnock Conservancy, founded in 1989, is the only land trust dedicated exclusively to the 35 towns in the Monadnock region of southwestern New Hampshire. Its mission is to work with communities and landowners to conserve the natural resources, wild and working lands, rural character and scenic beauty of the region. Based in Keene, N.H., the Conservancy is an accredited organization that has protected nearly 20,000 acres of forest, farmland, shoreline, wetlands, wildlife habitat and recreation trails in the region. For more information, visit or call 603-357-0600.

The Nature Conservancy works in New Hampshire and around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, and using a collaborative approach that is grounded in the needs of our state and local communities, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. In New Hampshire, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 290,000 acres of forests, fields and natural areas, along with 680 miles of shoreline and river frontage. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.


The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.