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Finding Farmers: Latest in Extensive Campaign to Protect Rural Character in the Rondout Valley

The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the sale of approximately 45 acres of the former Misner Farm in Marbletown to Frank and Cyndi Brooks. In a partnership effort with OSI and Scenic Hudson, this Ulster County farm will also be protected by a conservation easement, which permanently limits development on the property except for expanded agricultural use. Located in the heart of the Rondout Valley, near the Esopus Creek, an area where OSI and Scenic Hudson have been focusing conservation efforts for the past decade. 

The funding for the easement came from a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) grant from New York State’s Department of Agriculture & Markets Farmland Protection Program, which provided 75 percent of the cost of the easement.  

The local match was provided by the Open Space Conservancy (OSC), the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute, and Scenic Hudson, both of which used monies from the Lila Acheson and Dewitt Wallace Endowment.  

The Brooks family comes from a long line of cattle farmers and has been raising beef and dairy heifers, along with growing their own hay and corn, on their nearby 147-acre Generation Farm for over 20 years. This sixth generation operation is also supported by almost 500 additional acres of surrounding farmland that the family leases. 

The oldest son, Randy, now armed with a degree in dairy management, will be launching a new dairy operation on the Misner farm, to continue an impressive stewardship of this historic working landscape. Randy praised the many cooperative farmland and open space preservation efforts in the region, saying such efforts “make it affordable for a young person like myself to start a farm. We would be out of business in ten years if it weren’t for the acres preserved in the area. Development would price us out.”

The agricultural easements on the Brooks Farm, as well as the nearby Davenport and Paul Farms, are representative of OSI’s comprehensive farmland protection effort in the Hudson River Valley that serves to protect open space amid rising development pressures and safeguard a local source of fresh and healthy food.

“As we are protecting these working farms one by one, OSI and its partners are protecting an integral way of life.  The Brooks Farm is part of an extraordinary agrarian legacy here in the shadows of the Gunks,” said OSI’s President, Joe Martens.  

“Farms are vital to our fast-growing region, and unfortunately agricultural land is a prime target for development. Scenic Hudson is ramping up efforts to keep working farms in business. We hope that arrangements like these that allow local farmers to start new agricultural ventures will set a positive precedent for more farm preservation in Ulster County and beyond,” said Scenic Hudson’s Senior Vice President, Steve Rosenberg.

Mr. Rosenberg highlighted that Scenic Hudson has preserved more than 7,000 acres of farmland, part of more than 24,000 acres of land it has protected for public benefit in the Hudson Valley.  The group has conserved more than 3,000 acres in Ulster County and has created nine public parks, including Franny Reese Preserve, Black Creek Forest Preserve, Esopus Meadows Point Preserve, and Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreation Area.

By preserving a farming economy in Ulster County, OSI is able to shelter surrounding viewsheds and maintain a highly desirable rural community character. To date, OSI has protected 1,000 acres of working farms here, below a 25,000-acre swath of OSI-protected lands atop the Shawangunk Ridge.

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