It’s been a long time since John and Lorraine Bell have walked the back fields.
Getting into their 80’s, they needed time to focus on their health and increasingly that involved running back and forth to the doctors. Yet the farm is something that continues to give them joy and hope.
Located in St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties, the farm has been part of their family and the community for three generations. Over the years John and Lorraine have shared their passion for farming with others by having 4-H groups visit the farm and showing their cattle at the county fair. Their daughter Melody grew up on the farm, milking cows and haying the fields.
But even while Melody loved the farm, its future was uncertain.
That changed when the Bells were able to conserve their land.
Keeping the farm in the family
Thanks to a partnership between the Army and the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, through a program called the Amy Compatible Use Buffer program (ACUB), the Bell’s protected their land and plan to transfer it to Melody and her son, Cody.
The program pays farmers and landowners, like the Bells, to retire the majority of their non-farm development rights. In this particular case, funding also came from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund.
It’s a great solution for the Bells who wanted a way to pay for their health care costs as well as transfer the land to Melody and Cody. Melody and Cody wanted to own the farm but couldn’t afford it at the price it would be sold for development. By conserving the land it becomes more affordable and allowed Melody to purchase the land from her parents.
It’s also strategic for the Army. The Army doesn’t have to worry about future development sprawling over the 345 acres of woodlands and fields which could impact their training at the military base on Fort Drum.
Like other farms conserved with the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, farm families continue to own the land and can sell, lease or transfer the land as they wish. The land remains on the tax rolls. The conservation agreement remains in place, therefore providing a conservation legacy for the family.
“For our family, this made a whole lot of sense,” reflected Melody, continuing “it gives my parents peace of mind and allows our family to continue our commitment to farming, into the future.”