News

Greenmarket Farm Permanently Protected

NEW YORK, NY April 30, 2007 - The Open Space Conservancy (OSC), the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute (OSI), is proud to announce the successful acquisition of a conservation easement on the 51-acre Hodgson Farm located in the Town of Montgomery, Orange County, New York. For more than half a century, Rich and Melissa Hodgson have been working the land, first as chicken farmers and now as growers of fruits, vegetables and flowers. For the last 30 years, they’ve sold their farm-fresh products at New York City’s Greenmarket, their colorful abundant stand a fixture in Union Square and three other locations that are currently coordinated by the Hodgson’s daughter. The conservation easement protects the historical farm from development, ensuring its continued agricultural use for generations into the future. 

“We were up against the wall,” says landowner Rich Hodgson. “A lot of the farms in this area are already gone. They disappeared over the last twenty years and turned into housing. We’re just so glad that with this conservation easement, we can keep the farm going successfully.” 

Funding for the conservation easement came from a variety of sources, predominately via a state Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) grant with supplemental funds from Orange County. The Town of Montgomery and OSI provided the local match at approximately $44,000 each, and the Hodgson family provided a donation to reach a total project cost of approximately $750,000. The land has multiple natural resource values, including prime soils, streams and ponds that provide habitat to support biological diversity. The Hodgson Farm lies within the immediate viewshed of the Shawangunk Ridge, a popular recreation area where OSI has protected 24,000 acres. 

“The preservation of the Hodgson Farm is a remarkable example of how patience and commitment can lead to a stunning conservation success. Historic farm fields are now maintained in perpetuity and a local family business is fortified,” said Jennifer Grossman, VP for Land Acquisition for OSI. “The Hodgson family has not only worked tirelessly to keep their farm operations viable, but they’ve given a real gift to this Orange County community. Drive by and you’ll see why.” 

OSI has played a strategic conservation role in the Town of Montgomery, a municipality with a strong but struggling agricultural economy. To date, the Town has 10,000 acres devoted to agricultural use with almost 1,000 acres protected under the PDR program, all with OSI’s assistance, although Hodgson is notable in that it is the first non-dairy farm protected by a PDR in Orange County. With a strong commitment to farmland preservation, OSI has protected more than 4,400 acres of farmland in the Hudson River Valley, conserving open space, sustaining community character and securing a local food supply.

The Hodgson Farm stands out not only due to its incredible success with diversification of farming initiatives (a corn maze, u-pick pumpkin and strawberry patches, a petting zoo, 4-H Club involvement and a strong role in the Greenmarket program), but also because of the enormous development pressure faced by the farm. Boasting over 1,500 feet of frontage on two major arteries in the Town of Montgomery and zoned “Highway Commercial,” the farm was a prime target to conversion to a non-agricultural use. Despite this pressure, the Hodgson family wished to continue farming for future generations. With the conservation easement, this hope has now been secured. 

The Hodgson’s family story, from farm to market, was captured by legendary author John McPhee in his book, Giving Good Weight, an excerpt of which appeared in The New Yorker in 1978. The story gave great exposure to the burgeoning New York City Greenmarket, which is today a thriving consortium of farmers selling directly to their customers at 44 markets located in all five boroughs. 

The mission of the Open Space Institute is to protect scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character. OSI achieves its goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, special loan programs, fiscal sponsorship, creative partnerships, education, and analytical research. The Open Space Institute has protected nearly 100,000 acres in New York State and an additional 1.5 million acres in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

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