Imagine what it’s like to have worked on your family farm, one that your family has cared for and owned for generations, only to see it lost to development.
That’s a challenge New York State is grappling with. Collectively we lost 2,100 dairy farms, a 20% decline, between 2012-2017 (the largest decline in two decades). Then the NY dairy industry, already challenged with narrow price margins, took a significant hit with the Covid-19 shut down of schools and restaurants.
There is some good news, however. Over the past 18 months, thanks to NYS farmland protection grants and community support, we have been fortunate to assist four farm families to conserve their land.
A total of 2,000 acres have been conserved ranging in size from 236 acres to almost 750 acres of productive fields, woodlands, and wetlands in St. Lawrence, Lewis, Oneida, and Jefferson counties.
The conservation agreements allow farmers to diversify their operations, including establishing home-based businesses and limited-scale renewable energy projects that are compatible with the land and water.
Two additional farmland projects are expected to be completed in the coming year.
Once protected, the farm families are free to sell their properties subject to the conservation agreements. As a result, the land will be more affordable for the next farmer.
“Sometimes folks forget how important farmland is to our local food system, wildlife habitat, our rural economy, and much of our way of life,” reflects Bill Paddock of the Groeslon Farm, which is owned by the Paddock family. Bill is part of a 4th generation family farm in Remsen, NY, and is exploring how to conserve their land.
Bill adds another thought, noting that we have more work to do. “It’s a great beginning. We need to invest in farmland conservation as part of our climate solution, too. Good soil health, regenerative farming, and keeping land from being chopped up needs to be part of our communities’ economic strategy. We are grateful for the chance to conserve our land. Other families need to be able to do that too.”
Between 2001 and 2016, approximately 2,000 acres a day across the nation were paved over, built up, and converted to uses that threaten the future of agriculture. Eleven million acres in total. We encourage you to read the full report: farmland.org/project/farms-under-threat
Here in the Tug Hill region, we realize that farmland is a precious resource. That’s why we are working so hard with local farm families to protect it.