Three New York State farms preserved with innovative federal funding

NEW YORK - May 13, 2011 - In the absence of state funding for farmland preservation, the Open Space Institute is now utilizing a federal funding stream that has helped save three Hudson Valley farms since the beginning of 2011.

With the support of the Natural Resources Conservation Service—a U.S. Department of Agriculture fund that is divided into state-by-state allocations—OSI has acquired easements restricting development on the Kiernan, Hector and Wright family farms. The purchase of the easement ensures that each farmer's land will permanently remain in agriculture while providing a much-needed infusion of capital.

"These farmland preservation projects are so valuable because of their dual role: they protect open space and promote economic development," said Jennifer Grossman, OSI's vice president for land acquisition. "Many of the farms in our region are fiscally constrained and these easements allow them access to capital they wouldn't otherwise have."

The farms recently protected are the 140-acre Kiernan farm in Ulster County, the 166-acre Hector farm in Sullivan County and the 120-acre Wright farm in Orange County. In each case, OSI relied on federal funding but also received significant support from local municipalities, concerned residents and land trusts in each of the communities.

"If there has been any sort of positive outcome as a result of a severely limited state budget," said Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO, "it's that we have found partners in unexpected places who have helped create a real sense of community around these efforts."

The Kiernan farm, which was supported by a high-profile fundraising campaign in the town of Gardiner, has been in continuous agricultural production since it was part of the larger Gertrude Bruyn patent of 1682. Marty and Thelma Kiernan's 65-cow grass-fed beef operation is one of the several farms that locals have dubbed the "Gardiner Beef Belt," a critical mass of 1,300 acres of beef farming along County Route 7. The Kiernans are also fixtures at the New Paltz, Ossining and Westchester farmers' markets.

The Hector farm, located just five miles south of Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center, lies within the Callicoon Creek Watershed and contains soils of statewide significance. The farm is currently being leased for hay and corn production and will ultimately be purchased with its lands incorporated into an adjacent dairy operation.

Located along a lengthy, visible stretch of Kings Highway, the Wright family farm is well known in the Warwick community and will provide a green entry into the historic town. The farm is comprised of meadows and fields of productive agricultural land containing rich soils. It is visited by the public seasonally for mixed produce, grass-fed beef, autumn festivities such as pumpkin picking, hay rides and a corn maze, as well as for Christmas trees in the winter. Every fall, hundreds of school children and their families visit the farm, as well as weekend "peepers" from across the New York metropolitan area.

With several other projects on the horizon, OSI's farmland preservation initiative is poised to continue to thrive, despite challenging economic conditions.

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