ANCRAM–The Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) in partnership with the town has closed on a deal to ensure 113 acres of Chaseholm Farm will forever remain in agriculture.
A grant from the state Department of Agriculture Farmland Protection program funded the purchase of an agricultural easement to be held by CLC, permanently protecting the working dairy farm.
Chaseholm is a 340-acre dairy farm spanning the Columbia/Dutchess county line.
A second generation dairy farm, Barry Chase and his wife, Rosemary Lyons-Chase, have operated the farm for the past 30 years.
In a renovated chicken coop/pig sty/grain shed just down the hill from the dairy barn, the Chase’s son Rory, 31, and Peter Destler, will soon run the Amazing Real Live Food Company, a lacto-fermented pro-biotic farmstead food operation already making a variety of cheeses and ice cream at the nearby Ronnybrook Farm facilities.
In their cheese plant operation, Rory and Peter use milk produced by Chaseholm cows to make his products. Rory returned home about three years ago to become involved with the family farm after being educated at the University of Vermont’s Institute for Artisan Cheese. He invited his buddy Peter, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, to join him in the business.
The protection of the Columbia County portion of Chaseholm Farm will help preserve Ancram’s rural character through the continued agricultural viability of the community.
“We’ve invested so much of our lives to make this land as productive as possible. It will mean a great deal to know that these fields will still be farmed 50 years from now,” Barry Chase said in a press release.
Executive Director Peter Paden said in the release that the dairy business operation at the Chase Farm reflects widespread activity in the local farm community and is part of the reason the conservancy believes that farming may once again provide a way for people here to make a living. He said that if the CLC could do more projects like this one, it would bolster the local economy while conserving the scenic working landscape and the county’s rural heritage.
The $660,186 farmland protection grant paid for 75% of the costs associated with the purchase of the farm’s development rights. More than two dozen conservation-minded neighbors contributed more than $50,000 toward the 25% required match. The majority of the match was donated by the Chase family, who sold their development rights to the state for less than fair market value.
This state program, also referred to as the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, is competitive. For the past several years, program applications have been nearly four times greater than the funding available.
Ms. Lyons-Chase expressed gratitude to the staff at the Columbia Land Conservancy, praising their knowledge and expertise.
CLC wrote and administered the grant and now holds the easement on behalf of the town. As with all properties protected with conservation easements, it will stay on the tax rolls.
“The Chases are the real heroes of this story. The farmland protection program is completely voluntary on the part of the farmer. Without the Chases’ vision and strong commitment to protecting their land, we would not have been able to do this project. Supporting farmers in their application for PDR funding is one way towns can help ensure a future for farming in Columbia County. Working farms are important to the local economy, environment, and quality of life,” Marissa Codey, senior project manager for the conservancy, said in the release.
But the future of the PDR program is in some jeopardy, as the state seeks ways to balance its budget. The PDR program has been funded through the Environmental Protection Fund, a dedicated fund for a number of environmental programs. The legislature has for years made a practice of borrowing from this fund to meet other budget needs, according to the release.
The Columbia Land Conservancy is a community-supported, non-profit land trust dedicated to supporting a viable local agricultural economy, protecting working lands, wildlife habitat, and rural open space in Columbia County.
CLC has helped secure over $5.5 million dollars, and enabled the protection of 5,300 acres of viable farmland in the county. For more information, visit www.clctrust.org.