By Cynthia Siemon Wyatt,
Managing Trustee, Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust (Branch Hill Farm)
Carl Siemon - in his element
My father, Carl Siemon, loved the state of New Hampshire. His deep-rooted connection to this state was established during his childhood when he spent his summers on his grandparents' farmhouse in Wakefield, and then in Milton Mills. His experiences of a much simpler time shaped his character.
"I lived summers on Oak Hill Road with my grandparents, brother and cousins. There was no telephone, no electricity; I remember my grandmother spending a good part of the day cleaning sooty mantles and trimming the wicks in the kerosene lamps - and who can forget the privy out behind the house? Of the kid's chores, mine was to lug the drinking water from the well about 50 yards up the Hill - Helping the neighbors on Branch Hill Road fill their barn with hay, all done with horse-drawn equipment and pitch forks-and I remember being thrilled to be allowed to drive Dolly on the dump rake."
1st Cousins Frank Massin, Carl & Rob Siemon, and Bill Rutter
My father proudly and successfully spent his adult life running the Siemon Company, which was established in 1903 by his paternal grandfather. He continued the tradition of spending summers in New Hampshire with his family. In 1962, when I was 10 years old, he purchased his grandparents' 1786 farm house in Milton Mills. The original 100 acre farm had been sold off and the farmhouse sat on 3 acres of land. In 1966, New England Box put up for sale 56 acres of the original property behind the house and my father wisely made the purchase. This land purchase was the beginning of the successful restoration of the original homestead and also the beginning of Branch Hill Tree Farm. Since that first land purchase in 1966, Branch Hill Farm has grown to over 3,000 acres of managed forest and farm land through a series of 38 separate land acquisitions.
By the mid 1970's , Dad was residing full time on the New Hampshire family homestead, pulled here by his childhood roots and by his love for "working in the bush." He would talk about how lucky he was to have a balance in his life between the material and natural world. Over the years, my father received several Tree Farmer of the Year awards for his exemplary forest management. My father's passion was pruning trees, and it has been estimated that he personally pruned over 90,000 trees.
The hours that my father committed to working on his tree farm and reconditioning over 100 acres of hay fields were also spent thinking about its future. He knew that fragmentation of farm and forest land was an encroaching reality, and he began to seriously consider protecting his land in perpetuity. In 1991, he donated the development rights of his land to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. In 1995, my father's strong stewardship ethic was reflected in his decision to make Branch Hill Farm a Private Operating Foundation with conservation and educational purposes, aptly named the Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust.
"Having worked so hard for 30 years, I wanted to see a vehicle in place to protect this land, so that it never changes. This will make me sleep a lot better, knowing it will still be in this state once I'm gone. There is a time to get and a time to give back. I'm ready to give back."
My father and I were equally intrigued with a Greenway organization in southern New Hampshire called Bear-Paw Regional Greenway. I followed through on our common vision of Branch Hill Farm conservation lands being part of a larger scale greenway project. Thanks to this vision, I worked hard with others to establish Moose Mountains Regional Greenways (MMRG) in 2000. Today, after 16 years, MMRG is a healthy and active Land Trust dedicated to conserving networks of public and private land in our region of Brookfield, Wakefield, Middleton, Milton, Farmington, New Durham, and Wolfeboro. MMRG has helped conserve over 4,500 acres of valuable conservation landscapes in our region. Each conservation transaction has helped fulfill our common vision…..in Dad’s words, "to forever create an oasis of forests, fields, wildlife, recreation, clean water and air. Perhaps these protected lands will inspire others to find ways to protect their lands - to keep New Hampshire, New Hampshire."