Neighbors rally to protect local farm

NEW YORK, NY — April 2, 2014 — The 5,713-resident town of Gardiner, NY has a robust community fundraising effort to thank for its latest farmland preservation success—the scenic 74-acre Hess family farm on Sand Hill Road, at the foot of the Shawangunk Ridge.

The Open Space Institute announced today the acquisition of a conservation easement on the farm. The easement prevents future development and ensures that the property will remain in agriculture. 

The preservation of the Hess farm was notable for its exceptional community support, as local residents made more than 60 individual contributions, ranging from $25 to a $10,000 gift from Jim and Mary Ottaway, to help the town raise $112,500—a full 25 percent of the price of the easement.

“This is a town with deep agricultural roots, and a healthy, diverse and growing farming community. Protecting our long-established farmland is key,” said Gardiner Town Supervisor Carl Zatz. “The campaign to permanently protect the Hess Farm was truly a community effort, led by Marc Moran and volunteers serving on the town’s Open Space Commission, and countless other local volunteers and contributors. We are grateful to the federal government and to several foundations for their generous financial support. 

“We are indebted to the Open Space Institute for its technical assistance and financial support of this project. OSI is unwavering in its work to strengthen local farms in Gardiner and this entire region,” he said. 

The purchase price for the conservation easement was $431,250. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service awarded OSI a Farm and Ranchland Protection Program grant for $187,500. OSI and the town of Gardiner committed to raising the remaining $243,750. 

In addition to the community donors, The 1772 Foundation and the Gackstatter Family Foundation both made $25,000 grants to fund the project. The Anderson-Rogers Foundation pledged $5,000 and the A&J Foundation contributed $1,000 as well. 

“For a town the size of Gardiner, its residents spoke loudly about its agricultural heritage and they made an investment in its agricultural future,” said Bob Anderberg, OSI’s vice president and general counsel. “The protection of the Hess Farm is the result of an excellent public-private partnership, with funding coming from the Department of Agriculture, several private foundations, and many individuals. There was a very real commitment from numerous parties to keep this land in farming, and a testament to the importance of land conservation.” 

The preservation of the Hess farm furthers OSI’s longstanding conservation efforts in Ulster County’s Rondout and Wallkill valleys, where the organization has protected a total of 4,520 acres of active farmland at a cost of over $15 million. The Hess farm is the 27th farm OSI has protected in the two valleys and the fourth in the town of Gardiner. 

OSI also preserved Gardiner’s 65-acre Phillies Bridge farm (Ulster County’s oldest community supported agricultural operation), the 120-acre Kiernan farm and the 140-acre Mercaldi farm. 

The Hess operation is one of Gardiner’s most viable farms. Currently, the farm produces feed hay and shelled corn for many neighboring and local farms raising horses, cattle and livestock. The farm also produces free-range eggs for local purchase and partners with local farmers to produce a full range of feed products. There are also plans to introduce locally grown beef, which has become one of the specialties of the Gardiner area. 

The farm lies in close proximity to two other protected areas—the 566-acre Galeville Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, one of the only two grassland sites in the Hudson Valley large enough to support the entire assemblage of grassland birds, and the Mercaldi farm, also on Sand Hill Road and protected by OSI.

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