Pembroke – Hillman
557 Buck Road
Public access, no formal trails
The Hillman family owned these lands for over a hundred years and farmed them until the 1960s. Since then Stan Grimes and his family have been leasing the fields and growing corn. In 2008, the Hillman children, now in their seventies, were forced to put the property on the market. Initially a developer was the top bidder but after the deal fell through, Stan Grimes and the Hillmans reached out to the community for help in preserving it.
Ammy Heiser and the Pembroke Conservation Commission had protected small parcels in the past but the amount of money needed to do this deal was much bigger than anything they had faced before. Ultimately, they learned about the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But in order to get a grant for matching funds from the government they had to demonstrate the farm’s historic significance. State historian James Garvin stepped in and wrote a letter documenting that the area had been farmed since it was first settled in 1755 and has always had prime agricultural soil. The USDA agreed and in 2011, the Town of Pembroke put the issue to the voters and between the federal money and money from the local conservation fund, it bought the land. Shortly thereafter, the town placed an easement on the land under the stewardship of Five Rivers. This fulfilled the desire of Marilyn Hillman and her siblings to honor the memory of their parents.
The Grimes continue to lease the land from the Town of Pembroke and it remains a working farm. There are trails along the perimeter of the corn fields stretching back to the Suncook River but, during the growing season, access and ease of walking may be limited. The best time to visit is after the harvest and during the winter when the fields are cleared and there is no risk of damaging the crops. With the fields cleared there is plenty of space to walk around and, in the winter, to snowshoe and cross-country ski. Be advised that hunting is also permitted on the property so it is important to wear bright clothing and stay alert while visiting during hunting season.