Groups Partner to Protect Columbia County Farmland

Thursday, September 15, 2011 -- Scenic Hudson

Michael Chameides
Columbia Land Conservancy
518 392 5252, Ext. 204

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
845 473 4440, Ext. 222

STUYVESANT (Columbia County)—Scenic Hudson and the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) have partnered to purchase development rights on an 82-acre farm in the Town of Stuyvesant, guaranteeing that it will continue contributing to the community's agriculture-based economy and rural charm. By protecting the farm, which contains 57 acres of USDA Prime Soils and Soils of Statewide Significance, the organizations have made it economically feasible for the land's former leaseholder, Monkshood Nursery, to purchase the property.

In a related transaction, the owner of 84 adjacent agricultural acres donated a conservation easement to the CLC and entered into a long-term lease with Monkshood's owners David and Melinda Rowley, increasing the permanently preserved land available to the farm operation for its continued growth.

A certified organic grower of herbs, greens and mixed vegetables, Monkshood Nursery plans to expand its greenhouses and increase the amount of land in cultivation. The farm currently sells at local and New York City greenmarkets and through a community supported agriculture (CSA) model, in which participants buy a share of the produce grown each year.

Protecting farmland is a high priority for both organizations. Collectively, they have conserved more than 18,000 agricultural acres in Columbia County. Scenic Hudson has protected 6,800 acres in Columbia County, including 4,950 acres on 26 farms. CLC holds conservation easements on 152 properties throughout the county, 21,300 acres in all, some 13,500 acres of which are farmland.

The transactions were handled for Scenic Hudson by Senior Land Project Manager Cari Watkins-Bates, and for CLC by Conservation and Agricultural Programs Manager Marissa Codey.

Land Deals Protect Columbia County Farmland

In a separate transaction, Scenic Hudson purchased a conservation easement on a 150-acre multigenerational farm operation in Stuyvesant that will allow for potential expansion of its cattle and hay operations. In addition to safeguarding 86 acres of USDA Prime Soils and Soils of Statewide Significance, the easement preserves shorelines along a tributary of Newton Hook Creek, which empties into the Hudson River within the ecologically important Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve at Stockport Flats. The protected farmland is contiguous to agricultural lands previously conserved by Scenic Hudson and the Open Space Institute.

"Development pressure makes Hudson Valley farms especially vulnerable, right at a time when it's imperative to increase the acreage of productive farmland to secure a sustainable 'foodshed' for the region and New York City. By preserving these properties, Scenic Hudson works with local farmers to ensure that their fields are always available to provide fresh produce and support Stuyvesant's agricultural economy. I thank the landowners and Columbia Land Conservancy for making these successes possible," said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

"We believe Columbia County is singularly well positioned to take advantage of the surge of interest in healthy and locally grown food, and that a resurgent and viable farm economy would, among other things, be an excellent conservation achievement. Scenic Hudson has been an invaluable partner in furthering this vision," said CLC Executive Director Peter Paden.

"This project represents a complex series of collaborations between the Phillips family, who sold the land to the Rowleys; the Rowleys, who now have the long-term security they need and were seeking to expand Monkshood Nursery; the Goodwins, whose donated easement will further support the farm operation; and of course our collaboration with Scenic Hudson. Collectively, the result is 166 acres of land that is now permanently available to a dynamic young farm family," added Mr. Paden.

"I would like to thank everyone that has been involved with the Monkshood nursery, gardens and CSA project. Before, we were expecting to have to move to another location to meet the growing needs of our community and vendors. Now we have a firm footing on which to continue to build a site-specific farming operation and continue our growth in every aspect of our work. I want to especially thank Columbia Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson and Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation for their wonderful work, and to everyone that makes projects like this possible. Without them all, what would we be eating?" said David Rowley, co-owner of Monkshood Nursery.

"We are pleased to have been able to help leverage the conservation of this valuable and productive farmland. We look forward to having our own land put back into productive agriculture and applaud the efforts of the Columbia Land Conservancy and Scenic Hudson for their roles in helping farmers like David and Melinda Rowley achieve a more stable land base from which to grow on," said Kieran Goodwin and Catherine Rocco, who donated the 84-acre easement to CLC.

Funds for the transactions came from Scenic Hudson's Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment.

Transactions have strong economic, ecological, health upsides

The conservation easements preserve landscapes that contribute to the Hudson Valley's $4.7-billion tourism economy that sustains 80,000 jobs, as well as its $810-million agricultural economy. The market value of produce grown on Columbia County farms exceeds $50 million annually.

Protecting large, contiguous landscapes safeguards the interconnected network of diverse habitats on which many wildlife species depend. Increasing the acreage of protected open space also offers myriad human health benefits. Trees sequester pollutants that contribute to asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease, while releasing oxygen. Farms, woodlands and wetlands collect and purify water that filters into the ground to recharge local aquifers, which communities depend on for drinking water. Vegetation and wetlands also intercept rainfall, preventing it from flowing into streams where it could cause flooding. Safeguarding prime wildlife habitats helps maintain biodiversity, which plays an important role in preventing diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

About Columbia Land Conservancy

CLC is the only conservation organization focused exclusively on conserving the rich and abundant farmland, forests and wildlife habitat of Columbia County. It provides an integrated program of land conservation coupled with outdoor education and community outreach to encourage thoughtful and balanced growth in Columbia County. In its 25-year history, CLC has helped some 152 local families protect 21,300 acres of land. CLC is committed to a collaborative strategy to achieve its conservation goals. CLC works with multiple individuals, organizations and municipalities throughout the county on projects that help maintain the rural quality of life, protect what are truly exceptional agricultural and natural resources, and strengthen connections between people and the land. CLC manages ten public conservation areas, providing miles of trails for free, year-round outdoor recreation, and it hosts free education programs for people of all ages throughout the year, developing customized educational programs in partnership with area schools, day-care centers, after-school programs and summer enrichment programs to bring children into the outdoors: