News

Celebrated Hand Melon Farm permanently protected

GREENWICH, NY—July 30, 2015—One of the Capital Region’s most celebrated farms, the historic Hand Melon Farm, is now permanently protected through a conservation easement secured through the Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), with grant support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets via the state Environmental Protection Fund, and from the Open Space Institute (OSI).

The scenic and historic Hand Melon Farm produces one of the region’s most well-known and cherished crops, the Hand melon. The Hand Melon farm was started in 1908 by the great-grandfather of the current owner, John Hand.

Working with Mr. Hand, ASA purchased a conservation easement in order to permanently protect the high-valued farmland and support its thriving farming operations. The conservation easement was supported by funding from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund through the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Farmland Protection and Implementation Grants program, and matched by a grant from OSI.

“We are so pleased that with the help of the funding from the Farmland Protection and Implementation Grants program, the historic Hand Melon Farm will to be able to continue to grow, producing its famous Hand melons and more than 20 other crops,” said Commissioner Richard A. Ball, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. “The program is critical to making sure our state’s lands are protected for the purpose of sustaining our farm operations, like the Hand Melon Farm, and supporting our agriculture economy. We thank our partners for their commitment to the project.”

“This project honors and preserves a model farm and a community asset that has become synonymous with summer in the Saratoga region,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “This conservation easement represents the best type of farmland protection project made possible by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. We congratulate the state and our partner ASA on this amazing accomplishment.”

“It’s been an honor to work with the Hand family to conserve such a prominent farm. This project would not have been possible without help from the state program and OSI, which provided the money needed to match the state funds. We are grateful to OSI for their support,” said Teri Ptacek, ASA’s Executive Director.

“We are very excited to have worked with ASA in order to conserve this beautiful farm. The thought of housing or commercial development someday covering these wonderfully productive fields where my family has lived for over 100 years is just unfathomable,” said John Hand.

Lying within view of the Saratoga Battlefield, located across the Hudson River in Easton, the 419-acre Hand Melon Farm is also listed as a high conservation priority within the American Battlefield Protection Program’s study of the region.

Fruits and vegetables produced at the Hand Melon Farm are sold through its popular local farmstand on State Route 29 in Greenwich, pick-your-own at the farm, melon mail-order, and “local wholesale” to area farmstands, restaurants and the cooperative wholesale market in the Albany-Saratoga Region.

The farm, which participates in a number of industry, educational and research projects, is also a model of responsible farm practice in the region. The Cornell Plant Pathology Department has conducted melon disease research on the farm for over 20 years, while mulching, forest stewardship and farmland erosion are all handled using sustainable farming practices.

The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets’ mission is to foster a competitive food and agricultural industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. The Department works diligently to promote a viable agricultural industry, foster agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguard the state’s food supply.

OSI protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Over the past decades, OSI, partnering with ASA and others, has actively protected several key properties in the region, including the 1997 acquisition of a nearly 900-acre conservation easement on Allenwaite Dairy Farm in Easton, the 2005 conservation easement acquisition on 380 acres of the Saratoga Sod Farm, and the 2006 acquisition of the historic Sword Surrender Site.

ASA was founded 25 years ago as a non-profit land trust focusing on farmland conservation in Washington and Rensselaer counties. Today, ASA has conserved 16,000 acres, protected 101 farms, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary at its Forever Farmland Supper on Aug. 6, 2015 at the Hand Melon Farm.

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