STUYVESANT — Scenic Hudson and the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) have purchased development rights on an 82-acre farm in the town of Stuyvesant. The organizations say the purchase guarantees that the farm will continue contributing to the community’s agriculture-based economy and its rural charm.
Protecting the farm, which includes 57 acres of USDA Prime Soils and Soils of Statewide Significance, has made it economically feasible for the land’s former leaseholder, Monkshood Nursery, to purchase the property.
In a related transaction, the owner of 84 adjacent agricultural acres donated a conservation easement to the CLC and entered into a long-term lease with Monkshood, increasing the permanently preserved land available to the farm operation.
Monkshood Nursery is a certified organic grower of herbs, greens and mixed vegetables that plans to expand its greenhouses and increase the amount of land in cultivation. The farm currently sells at local and New York City greenmarkets and through a community supported agriculture (CSA) model, in which participants buy a share of the produce grown each year.
In a separate transaction, Scenic Hudson purchased a conservation easement on a 150-acre multigenerational farm operation in Stuyvesant. This will allow for potential expansion of the farm’s cattle and hay operations. In addition to safeguarding 86 acres of USDA Prime Soils and Soils of Statewide Significance, the easement preserves shorelines along a tributary of Newton Hook Creek, which empties into the Hudson River within the ecologically important Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve at Stockport Flats. The protected farmland is contiguous to agricultural lands previously conserved by Scenic Hudson and the Open Space Institute.
CLC Executive Director Peter Paden said the Monkshood Nursery project represents a complex series of collaborations between the Phillips family, who sold the land to David and Melinda Rowley, owners of Monkshood. He said the Rowleys now have the long-term security, which they sought in order to expand Monkshood Nursery.
In addition, the actions of Kieran Goodwin and Catherine Rocco, who donated the 84-acre easement to CLC and negotiated the long-term lease with Monkshood, should provide further support for the Monkshood farm operation.
David Rowley, co-owner of Monkshood Nursery, said in a press release that before this deal, “we were expecting to have to move to another location to meet the growing needs of our community and vendors. Now we have a firm footing on which to continue to build a site-specific farming operation and continue our growth in every aspect of our work. I want to especially thank the Columbia Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson and the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation for all their wonderful work, and to everyone that makes projects like this possible. Without them all, what would we be eating?”
The farm the Rowleys purchased was owned by the Phillips family and is near Route 9J north of Stuyvesant Falls as is the Goodwin-Rocco property.
Seth McKee, Land Conservation director for Scenic Hudson said this week that for privacy reasons the organization does not disclose the amount it pays for development rights. He also said that each development rights easement agreement is different, but he did say that the amount in this case was a “significant piece of the value of the land,” which he placed at “hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Funds for the transactions came from Scenic Hudson’s Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said that development pressure means Hudson Valley farms are especially vulnerable points to the necessity of increasing the amount of farmland and securing what he called a sustainable regional “foodshed.”
The local efforts of CLC and Scenic Hudson have led to the conservation of more than 18,000 agricultural acres in Columbia County. Scenic Hudson has protected 6,800 acres in the county, including 4,950 acres on 26 farms. CLC holds conservation easements on 152 properties throughout the county, 21,300 acres in all, some 13,500 acres of which are farmland. The market value of produce grown on Columbia County farms exceeds $50 million annually.
The transactions were handled for Scenic Hudson by Senior Land Project Manager Cari Watkins-Bates, and for CLC by Conservation and Agricultural Programs Manager Marissa Codey.
The Scenic Hudson website is www.scenichudson.org. More about CLC is at www.clctrust.org.