Background of Farming in Wilton
In the late 1800s to early 1900s, farmers in Wilton had watched their parents and grandparents struggle through difficult times when agriculture moved west and their children and farm hands left to work at the factories. Now these same factories were closing taking with them an important customer base leaving farmers to struggle even more.
The 1920s and 1930s, with the onset of the Great Depression, were extremely challenging for the town of Wilton and area farms. Many manufacturing operations moved south and local factories closed their doors. The entire state of New Hampshire was severely impacted by the closing of Amoskeag Mills in Manchester (once the largest mill town in the world).
Grain prices rose significantly as World War II escalated and America began providing overseas assistance and eventually became involved in the war. As the US government anticipated the need for American farmers to help feed the world, the government (USDA and what would become NRCS) stepped in with a plan for increased food production. The government promoted, subsidized and brought forward a variety of financial supports that drastically increased the use of machinery, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and other practices which increased yields and industrialized farming in the flat open landscape of the Midwest. The small and rocky farmland in the Northeast was not appropriate for industrial models and could not benefit from this support. While these subsidies and the surge in grain prices brought profits to Midwest farmers, Wilton and NH farmers who depended on purchasing low cost grain to supplement feed to their livestock were hit hard.
In 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt planted the first Victory garden at the White House and the National Victory Garden Program was initiated. Across the country families planted small gardens to feed their families and to free up more food for the war efforts as commercial farms became more and more industrialized and mechanized. Small farms, like those in Wilton, became more difficult than ever to sustain.
The Frye Farm and High Mowing School
The Frye family continued to farm their land through the hardships of the Great Depression. They were determined to make decisions that would ensure a future for the Farm and create a legacy for the Frye family. In 1939 and then again in 1941 the Frye family decided to reduce the size of their farm’s acreage to increase efficiency by selling their less productive land, and in 1943 they donated all papers and records associated with their relative Major Isaac Frye to the NH Historical Society.
Mrs. Beulah Emmet, an educator and philanthropist, owned a summer home on Abbot Hill and purchased over 100 acres of forest and farmland that surrounded her property from the Fryes in 1939 and 1941. Excluded from this purchase was the prime piece of farmland that has come to be known as Frye Field.
High Mowing School Founded
In 1942 Mrs. Emmet started the first Waldorf inspired high school in the United States on the land she had purchased from the Fryes and another longstanding Wilton family, the Greggs. When she heard that the Frye brothers called one of their active haying fields the south mowing, she decided that her land and new school must then be the High Mowing School. “This school,” she wrote, “is founded that within its doors the young may find Health of body trained to skills and techniques, Wisdom of the heart to open to an understanding of their fellow men, Strength of mind and freedom through richer opening vistas and high goals.” Mrs. Emmet chronicled her journey while founding High Mowing School in her book, From Farm to School.
Many of the Frye family children have attended the school over the years, including Gary Frye who currently owns and farms Frye Field, which sits just adjacent to the school and provides one of the most stunning vistas in southern New Hampshire.
Frye Family & HMS
Gary Frye and his family are the seventh generation of Fryes to farm in Wilton. High Mowing School has grown into a school known as a leader in academic excellence that promotes living relationships with our natural surroundings and exemplary stewardship of a thriving campus. As the Frye family looks towards their future, they are looking once again to downsize the farm and sell what is known as Frye Field along with forest land, a hidden field and Souhegan River frontage. Given the long term relationship between the school and the Frye family, it is their wish that High Mowing School become the stewards and owners of this land.
Seventy years ago, Mrs. Emmet purchased 100 acres of farmland and forest from the Frye family which surrounded her family's summer home and created High Mowing School. Mrs. Emmet's vision and belief lives on in everyone who has, does and will call High Mowing School home. As a community, we have the opportunity to honor her legacy and the Frye family’s seven generations of farming. Many a student was aided by Mrs. Emmet’s generosity, and inspired by the beauty of the land she acquired and gave over to a unique vision of education that has become High Mowing School. In keeping with this philosophy of inclusion and importance of land-based education, High Mowing seeks to acquire this land and create inclusive programming and cultural opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life, and conserve and protect this part of Abbot Hill for the whole community.