20th Century History

The first half century, pre -World War ll

At the beginning of the century the small farms that were to become Greenwoods had been nearly cleared of trees except for the steepest slopes, and land that was too rocky or wet to cultivate. Even those inhospitable acres were usually cleared and pastured.

The four small family farms produced milk for the fluid milk market and supplied small local cheese factories. Cash crops were; a limited amount of timber, poultry and eggs, maple products and hops. It was subsistence farming yielding a healthy quality of life but little, if any profit. Labor was provided by family members earning minimal wages and/or a hired man who would typically get room and board plus as much as a dollar a day.

An ice pond provided ice to be stored in an icehouse insulated with layers of sawdust. The ice was used to cool down the evening’s milk in metal milk cans, that held up to eighty-five pounds of milk, until the morning run to the creamery. Water came out of a dug well and was pumped by hand. Some farms would have a spring located high enough to provide gravity flow to the house and farm buildings. Heat was provided by firewood.

Most farmers would raise a pig or two and butcher a steer or unproductive cow. Free range chickens provided eggs and meat and every farm had a vegetable garden. Greenwoods was devoid of most of the wildlife and birds that are so common today.. Deer were a rarity and bear, coyotes, beaver, and turkeys had all been trapped or killed. However, the most important reason for the loss of wildlife was that there was too little natural habitat left.

Teams of workhorses provided the power to pull the plows, harrows, planters, cultivators, wagons and logging equipment needed to work the land and the remaining forest.

In the early and mid 1930’s during the depression, federal assistance resulted in nearly one hundred acres of the poorest land being planted to Norway Spruce destined to become future timber.

The soils were thin, acidic, high in clay content, stony and at nearly 2000 feet elevation. It was poor soil for growing good crops and the more successful farmers lived elsewhere with better land.

The War Years and post World War ll

The REA (Rural Electrification Act) had been enacted and electricity arrived to the small farmer and rural homeowner. The electric light, telephone, radio, refrigeration, milking machine and sewing machine were suddenly an option and higher milk prices related to the war permitted their purchase. Better equipment and farm tractors became commonplace but at a terrible price, as many farmers had incurred debt to pay for the equipment, silos, and expensive milk tanks. That debt often forced family members to seek outside work to keep the farm “going”. Every farm on Greenwoods land ultimately failed, and the land was converted to timber and other uses. The last farm to fail was the Zachow farm in the late 1980’s.

Radio, the war, television and the movies had shown the young people an easier life that did not require milking cows morning and night and few returned to the farm. Free family labor was no longer an option.

As each farm failed, nature was permitted to reclaim the land so that today’s landscape and percentage of forest cover has begun to mimic that of two centuries earlier.

In 1973 the Peterson family purchased one of those farms and systematically began purchasing contiguous properties that impacted on the integrity and conservation value of the Cranberry Bog and Butternut Creek. The Greenwoods Conservancy had been launched.