NEW YORK, NY — May 13, 2009 — In partnership with the town of Rochester, the Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today the acquisition of a conservation easement on the 149-acre Domino dairy farm on Airport Road in the town of Rochester. The easement allows for dairy operations to continue on the historic farm, but ensures that the land, owned by Margaret DeWitt and managed by the DeWitt family, will not be developed. The preservation project is part of OSI’s ongoing Two Valleys Campaign, which focuses protection efforts on working farms in the Rondout and Wallkill valleys, an area of scenic beauty and abundant farmland.
In addition, an adjoining landowner plans to donate a conservation easement on his property—which he currently leases to the DeWitts—protecting 93 more acres, bringing the amount of protected land to approximately 242 acres. The easement will be donated by landowners Robert and Eileen Rominger and will be held by the Rondout Esopus Land Conservancy and OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy.
Three-quarters of the cost of the Domino farm easement was funded by a $693,900 Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) grant awarded by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets Farmland Protection Program in December 2007. The Open Space Conservancy provided the required 25 percent local match of $231,300.
The 54-year-old farm is situated in the foothills of the Shawangunk Ridge at the edge of the Catskill Mountains and enjoys a spectacular view of the Sky Top Tower and lands of the Mohonk Preserve.
Domino Farm is close to several other OSI farmland preservation sites, including the 268-acre Paul Farm, the 93-acre Osterhoudt Farm and the 320-acre Davenport Farm in the town of Marbletown and the 361-acre Davis Farm on Route 209 north of Kerhonkson, which OSI protected in 2008.
To date, OSI has protected 18 farms and a total of 2,904 acres in nine separate towns in the Rondout and Wallkill valleys, preserving an important component of the region’s local economy as well as its traditional rural character.
OSI plans to protect an additional 3,500 acres of farmland in the two picturesque valleys that surround the Shawangunk Ridge, where we have also conserved 26,000 acres of land, including the Sam’s Point Preserve and much of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
“It is a delight to work with the DeWitt family in protecting this scenic landscape and allowing their family farm to continue as a viable operation,” said Joe Martens, OSI’s president. “Of all the work OSI does, farmland protection is enormously gratifying since we are preserving a farming way of life and encouraging the local production and distribution of healthy food.”
Domino Farm is one of only four remaining dairy farms in Ulster County. Purchased by the DeWitt family in 1955 and named “Domino” for the black and white patterns on Holstein cows, it has developed into one of the preeminent dairy herds in the country. Its 175 cows and 150 heifers, mostly Jerseys now, ranked among the top 10 in the nation for herds of its size. In the future, the DeWitts anticipate selling value-added milk products such as butter and cheese locally.
"We're so appreciative of OSI and the state of New York for helping us save our land for future generations of farmers,” said Janet DeWitt.
In addition to the dairy operation, the farm cultivates corn, alfalfa and grass. More than half of the property contains fertile, high-quality soils of statewide significance.
“Preserving our rural agricultural heritage is very important to the residents of Rochester,” said Town Supervisor Carl Chipman. “The Domino Farm conservation easement will ensure the continued operation of this dairy farm and preserve the beauty of this open land for future generations. We are grateful for the dedicated efforts of all who worked (NYS Dept. Ag & Markets, OSI, and Dennis Doyle of Ulster County Planning) to make this come to fruition. We are very lucky to have the Davis and Domino farms protected in our town.”