Developer picks Hollis orchard

HOLLIS – Woodmont Orchards has been sold to an Andover, Mass., developer, Sky Orchard Realty Trust.

The sale of two parcels was closed Nov. 12, according to records from the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds in Nashua.

A third, smaller piece of land was transferred Oct. 10, according to the registry documents.

Altogether, more than 90 acres changed hands.

Robert Lievens who owns and operates the apple farm with his brother, Stephen, said he will continue to run the business in Londonderry.

Steven Moheban, who owns Sky Orchard Realty Trust, is expected to develop the land, but not immediately.

Lievens said Moheban is likely to wait for the housing market to rebound.

Moheban, who is known for being “conservation-minded,” will also need to work with town officials, Lievens said.

The Hollis orchards were established in 1920.

In 1962, the apple farm, which was run by Lievens’ grandfather and father before he and his brother took over, became Woodmont Orchards.

Over the decades more orchards were added in Londonderry, where Woodmont is now headquartered, and in Lyndeborough, where it bought the Parker orchard.

No announcements have been made about Woodmont’s land in Londonderry, said that town’s planning director.

Four years ago, the town purchased 180 acres, roughly half of the orchards, for $3.25 million.

The purchase, which involved the land on the west side of Route 122, including the historic Ice House, was made to keep the land from being developed.

Following the sale, Lievens leased the orchards and continued to harvest and sell the apples grown there.

The bulk of the operation, however, has been in Londonderry. After Lievens’ lease with the town ends Dec. 31, Woodmont will be based entirely at the Londonderry orchard.

Recently, the town began advertising to lease the land it purchased from the Lievens brothers. Officials have said they would welcome a variety of agricultural enterprises, not just apple farming.

The town had expressed an interest in buying the remaining acreage. However, the two parties were unable to reach an agreement.

“I was working with the town, but it fell apart,” Robert Lievens said during a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “This, to me, was the next best.”

Moheban is the developer who worked with the Four Corners Farm Conservation Project in Wilton, creating a development that left several large parcels as open land.

“You’re not going to see a checker board house pattern,” Lievens said.

The newspaper called Moheban this week, but it was unable to reach him.

Lievens said development of the orchards will depend on market conditions and “what the town wants to work out” with Moheban.

Woodmont Orchards, unlike the neighboring Lull Farms and Brookdale Farms, has operated as a wholesale apple producer.

Lull and Brookdale sell direct to consumers and have also diversified, offering bakery products and more.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, the apple industry in the state last year made up just 6 percent of the state’s $184.5 million cash receipts for agricultural commodities.

Cut flower sellers and dairy producers made more than five times as much money.