Farmers partner with conservation groups to preserve farmland
LIVINGSTON—Farms feed people.
Because that seems like a good reason to keep land in agriculture, Scenic Hudson and the Columbia Land Conservancy have teamed up, along with three Columbia County farm families to conserve more than 250 acres of farmland in Livingston.
With federal funding support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to the tune of about $1 million with a matching amount from Scenic Hudson, the developmental rights to these farms were purchased to keep these productive lands in agriculture and “provide a direct infusion of capital to the farmers involved,” according to a Scenic Hudson press release. The Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) will hold, monitor and enforce the conservation easements.
The projects are just the latest in “this exciting and productive” collaboration among Scenic Hudson, CLC and farm owners, Scenic Hudson Land Conservation Director Seth McKee said by phone this week.
For the past three years Scenic Hudson has been able to secure federal funding for a variety of projects, said Mr. McKee, which has allowed the organizations to protect upwards of 1,700 acres of productive farmland on 12 working family farms in Columbia County.
“Along with Clermont and Germantown, Livingston is one of the agricultural communities where the organizations have been engaged in protecting a ‘critical mass’ of working farmland. Together they have protected 36 farms and 5,243 acres in the three towns,” the release said.
The most recent conservation easements will permanently protect:
•More than 100 acres at Vosburgh Orchards, operated by the same family for six generations. The farm currently grows a variety of apples sold to a local wholesaler for processing. Plans are underway to develop a farm cidery and brewery
•Nearly 30 acres at Taconic Orchards, which sells apples, plums, raspberries, cherries, peaches and other fruit at the farm’s store on Route 82 in Taghkanic. The orchard has been in the Feller family for more than 100 years, earning it a Century Farm designation by the state Agricultural Society. The newly protected land, which is adjacent to two farms previously conserved by landowners and CLC, is in the towns of Livingston and Taghkanic
•More than 150 acres on Andy Lane Farm, an animal-rescue facility for horses and other farm animals. Tillable land on the farm produces feed for the animals, and portions of the property are available to a local 4-H Club for educational gardening projects. The farm also hosts local autistic school children, giving them beneficial opportunities to be around the animals.
“More than half of the protected land on each farm contains USDA prime soils or soils of statewide importance,” said the release.
Mr. McKee points out that these conservation efforts benefit not only the regional food supplies of Columbia County and the Hudson Valley but are also part of protecting the New York City Foodshed. They also sustain local agriculture-based economies and the county’s rural character.
Word of mouth helps get information out about the program, said Mr. McKee. “We and CLC have a network of contacts in farming and we get referrals. Sometimes we seek people out if we find a great farm,” he said.
Farmers or farm owners who enlist in the program still own, live on, pay taxes and cultivate the land. A limited amount of development, such as the construction of agricultural buildings can occur on the land, but the bulk stays in farming, said Mr. McKee.
Money from the sale of the developmental rights allows farmers to pay down debt, invest in new farm operations, expand production, buy more land or even set up a retirement nest egg, he said.
“I’m happy to have worked with Scenic Hudson and Columbia Land Conservancy. Preserving my farmland with these organizations will help expand operations on the farm, and I look forward to continuing to provide our wholesome apples and apple products to the many people who enjoy them. We’re busy right now—planting a new orchard of early variety apples,” fruit farmer Arnold Vosburgh of Vosburgh Orchards said in the release.
“I definitely thought highly of doing this because we are a Century Farm, and I don’t want to see anything happen to the land after I’m gone. I already had to sell part of the land, across the street. Now there are all houses there. The main reason I wanted to do this was to keep the rest of the farm together,” Taconic Orchards owner, Arnold Feller, Jr., said in the release.
For more information about farmland conservation visit: www.scenichudson.org or www.clctrust.org.
To contact Diane Valden email .