Born in Concord in 1901, Farnham W. Smith attended the Concord Public Schools and graduated from Concord High School in 1920. He then attended Northeastern University where he received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1924. Farnham entered a family business and eventually took over management of the Blanchard Lumber Co., a wholesale distributor of lumber throughout the northeastern U. S. After World War II, he and his two brothers founded Concord Lumber Corp., which grew and prospered as a family retail lumber business, and is now owned by its employees.

In 1958, Farnham founded Lincoln Management Corp., providing investment management for individuals and trusts. He actively managed this firm throughout the remainder of his life. Farnham had many other business interests, including the Maine Central Railroad, on whose board he served for 21 years. He and his wife, Susan, owned and operated Great Brook Farms in Carlisle, where they raised purebred Holstein-Friesian cattle and developed a premier bloodline for that breed.

Farnham was also involved in community affairs, serving as Selectman in Concord and as a member of the Planning Board in Carlisle, where he lived from 1954 until his death in 1989. Especially interested in higher education, Farnham served more than 25 years as a trustee of Northeastern University Corporation. His father, William Lincoln Smith, was a professor of electrical engineering at Northeastern for more than 30 years and Farnham funded a scholarship there in his name. Farnham's wife and family established The Farnham W. Smith Scholarship Fund in his memory, in recognition of his love for his two "home towns" of Concord and Carlisle, as well as for his commitment to higher education.