Cornfield and windmills under windy sky in Lowville
Jacqueline Humphrey

Farmers on conserved land are managing for a changing climate

Farmers are innovators, part of the solution

When Lynn Murray conserved his farm in 2015, in the town of Champion, his goal was to ensure that his kids could take over the farming later in life. Farming for Lynn and most of the farm families in the Tug Hill region is a family effort, and many of those farmers want to conserve their land so the next generation can carry on the family legacy. Yet farming is more than land. It’s a business in an increasingly tricky growing environment. The recent US Agricultural Census elevated this issue when it noted this spring that New York State has lost nearly 2,800 farms between 2017 and 2022, totaling 364,000 acres.

Reflecting on the evolving climate conditions, Lynn, a seasoned farmer, acknowledges the stark shift in weather patterns. “Well, it’s hard to quantify but obviously the weather seems more extreme than it used to be,” he observes. “So, we’ve had to be prepared for colder than normal summers, warmer than normal, or drier than normal. We have not had an average year in the last few years; it’s been more unpredictable.”

Farmers responding to a changing climate

Jon Ostrowski and his family are working on farming resilience, too. Together, they run an organic farm in the town of Champion – conserved in 2013. Jon notes, “We used to mow, rake, and bale it, but now, with the increasingly unpredictable weather, we’ve had to adapt.”

By implementing sustainable farming practices and new technologies, the Ostrowskis are investing in their farmland to withstand sudden droughts followed by heavy rainfall. “The switch to using a tedder to spread out the hay for faster drying has truly changed our approach. With rainy spells becoming more frequent, traditional methods have become nearly impossible during such periods.” “The farming community is poised to do our part, and down the road, we will have better technologies to do more,” emphasizes Lynn. Meanwhile, Jon stresses, “Conserving the land and keeping it green, whether ag or forest—we can’t keep taking over the land with more buildings; we won’t have the land we need to keep the earth healthy.”

The interest in farmland conservation and climate-smart farming is growing in New York. Farmers in Oneida, Herkimer, Oswego, Lewis, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties are looking to our land trust to assist them in voluntarily conserving their land as part of their long-term strategy to ensure the next generation has the opportunity to farm, no matter the weather.