There’s the sweeping expanse of fields, woodlands and meadows—all 4,000 acres of it—which in and of itself is quite remarkable. Then there’s the fact that the farming operation is a combination of North Harbor Dairy, one of the region’s largest dairy farms, the Robbins Family Grain Company as well as Old McDonald’s Farm.
The farm is a significant employer for the area, providing 40 plus jobs and supplies milk to Great Lakes Cheese in Adams, NY.
But even more than that, what often makes the farm stand out is the family’s commitment to inspire the next generation to appreciate what farming, and specifically dairy farming, is all about.
During the summer, hundreds of visitors a day come to Old McDonald’s Farm. “We have been blessed with finding the right mix of real-life farming, interactive educational experiences, and the love of farming and the land to create a place that inspires people who otherwise might not experience a working farm,” said Nancy Robbins.
“But,” she continued, “we don’t take that for granted.”
Conserving the heart of the farm
The farm is owned and managed as a family operation. Ron Robbins, and his grown children, Julia and Brian, manage the farming side of the operation. And Nancy, Ron’s wife, oversees what has become a renowned farm education and experiential learning program at the farm.
“Dairy and agriculture are an important part of our local and regional economy. Our family wants to make sure that the good land we have doesn’t disappear under houses in the future, and selling the development rights is a good way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
To achieve that goal, the Robbins family will be conserving 1,300 acres of their farm in partnership with Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust. To do so, the family will sell the majority of their non-farm development rights on this acreage using funding for the project from New York State’s farmland protection program. It’s the first state farmland protection grant awarded in the North Country.
A family farm and legacy
Ron, Nancy’s husband, explained that when they decided to conserve a portion of the farm it was out of a desire to think about their kids and the community. The NYS Farmland Protection program is the way to make it happen.
New York State’s farmland protection program has grown in recent years to $15 million annually thanks to Governor Cuomo and statewide and local legislative support. Funds are divided by region, based upon a competitive grant application process.
Ron emphasizes that “It’s important for folks to understand that we still own the land, we still pay taxes on the land, manage the land, and continue to invest in the farm. This is a good business decision for us as farmers—and it’s a good family decision because we care about the land and want it to stay in farming. We want our kids and grandkids to be able to farm here and we want do our part to conserve what makes our community special.”
You help conserve farms throughout Tug Hill
Your support is what allows us to assist local farm-families like the Robbins to obtain state funding to protect their land, assist with the land planning, and work with them into the future to ensure their conservation agreement is upheld for generations to come.
Thanks to you, we also are able to work with farmers around Fort Drum through the national Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program as well as those landowners who wish to conserve their land in other parts of Tug Hill.
These projects take hundreds of hours to complete, often over several years. With your support we are currently working on two farmland protection projects, totaling 572 acres in communities near Fort Drum.
Thank you for investing in the conservation of Tug Hill’s family farms. Together, we are conserving the farms that make our region so special.