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Open Space Institute and partners permanently protect Seldom Rest Farm in Orange County

NEW YORK, NY - June 23, 2006 - There are two dairy farms still operating in the Town of Crawford in Orange County. Back when Henry Devries bought the “Seldom Rest Farm” in 1972, there were close to forty. On June 22nd, the Open Space Institute and a suite of funding partners acquired a conservation easement that helps guarantee that “Seldom Rest” will never become part of a vanishing rural landscape. 

“The development pressures on farms like this have been dramatic. While the value of open land in Orange County has exploded—serving as a monetary incentive to sell the farm— farmers face numerous challenges, not the least of which is low milk prices,” said Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute. The 141-acre dairy is located in the northern portion of Orange County, affording views of the Shawangunk Ridge. Closer by, the Shawangunk Kill, listed in the state's Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Program, borders the farm. Encumbering the farm with an agricultural easement ensures that a protective buffer on this stretch of the river will always exist. 

The acquisition announced this morning supports OSI's broader agricultural and open space strategy for conservation in the Hudson Valley. In fact, the permanent protection of Seldom Rest Farm fulfills the three goals targeted by the organization's mission statement— to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character. Efforts to conserve agricultural landscapes always fulfill OSI's goals of protecting a scenic, public resource and sustaining community character. In this case, the property borders the Shawangunk Kill, so OSI's goal of conserving important habitat will be met as well. 

The Devries Farm is noted as a “Dairy of Distinction” because it is one of New York's most productive dairy operations. Henry Devries estimates there are 100 milkers out of a total head of 170 Holsteins. Since acquiring the farm 41 years ago, he has raised 11 children there. His oldest son took over 15 years ago. “He's the boss now. I report to him,” said Devries, reassured that the farm, in operation for more than a century, has a new steward. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets approved partial funding in 2002 for the easement that was finalized this morning. “We've been waiting for this to happen for some time. This will always be the family farm. We'll stay here as long as we can afford the taxes,” said Devries. 

According to OSI's Jennifer Grossman, vice president for land acquisition, several parties joined together to acquire a “Purchase of Development Rights” (PDR) to permanently protect the Devries Farm. The State of New York's Department of Agriculture and Markets funded 49% of the acquisition, which was matched by funding from the Open Space Conservancy (an affiliate of the Open Space Institute), the Town of Crawford, Orange County, a substantial match by the landowner, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the USDA. “This is a terrific example of public and private partners combining resources and expertise to protect open space. In this case, we conserved many natural resources at once—productive farmland, an ecologically significant stream, and scenic views of the Shawangunk Ridge,” said Grossman. The Shawangunk Ridge, where OSI has protected close to 24,000 acres, has been a geographic focus area for OSI for 30 years. 

Said Charles Carnes, Crawford town supervisor, "The Town of Crawford is proud to have preserved this valuable parcel of land. The DeVries Family Farm contains some of the best soils and scenic vistas in the area. We would like to thank the DeVries family and the parties involved in this important project." 

“This is important not just in protecting farmland in the fertile, Wallkill Valley region but also in helping keep farmers on the farm during a period of financial and development challenges,” said David Church, commissioner, Orange County Planning Department, noting that the Devries Farm is one of the first projects with funding from the new County Open Space Fund. 

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, and creative partnerships. 

The Open Space Institute has protected nearly 100,000 acres in New York State. Through its Northern Forest Protection Fund and Conservation Loan Program, OSI has assisted in the protection of 1.4 million acres in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina.

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