Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740
Scenic Hudson collaborates with Dirt Capital, local land trusts
EAST FISHKILL (Dutchess County)—Fishkill Farms already is one of Dutchess County’s most productive and popular farm operations, supplying dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables to consumers throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City. Scenic Hudson has partnered with a private equity “impact” investor in farmland conservation to preserve 105 acres with high-quality soils adjacent to the farm—providing its owner with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand.
Scenic Hudson collaborated with Dirt Capital Partners, which invests in agricultural land to promote access and security for farmers who use sustainable practices. Dirt Capital will hold a lease on the property and will sub-lease it to Josh Morgenthau, owner of Fishkill Farms, who already has begun work to bring the long-fallow fields and former orchard back into production. The transaction is structured to transfer ownership of the property to a working farmer, subject to a conservation easement that will limit any development.
Scenic Hudson used funds from its Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment to complete the transaction. Also partnering in the acquisition through their financial support were the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and the Dutchess Land Conservancy.
Historic farm a mainstay of county’s agriculture, tourism economies
Established in 1913 by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the Franklin Roosevelt administration—and now in its third generation of family ownership—Fishkill Farms supplies produce via a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation, an on-site store, and farmers markets in the Hudson Valley and Brooklyn. The 266-acre farm also is an important contributor to the region’s agri-tourism economy through its pick-your-own operation, school field trips, special events and a cidery. All of the farm’s vegetables, berries and eggs are certified organic, as well as one-third of its orchard. The remaining fruits are grown using a sustainable approach.
The newly preserved farmland once was part of Fishkill Farms, but was transferred to another party and went out of production decades ago. The property was a high priority for protection according to Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan, a data-driven blueprint for ramping up collaborative farmland-protection efforts to create a secure source of fresh, local food for the Hudson Valley and New York City.
Deal also preserves unspoiled woods, wetlands along Wiccopee Creek
As part of the transaction, Scenic Hudson also acquired 240 acres of unspoiled forest and wetlands in the foothills of the Hudson Highlands. More than half a mile of Wiccopee Creek, a popular trout fishing stream, runs through the property, which is visible from hiking trails in Fahnestock State Park. Scenic Hudson will be planning for the future use of this land, which will include protections for its important natural assets.
“Scenic Hudson is thrilled that this once-productive farmland will again supply residents of the valley and New York City with fresh food. Development pressures in lower Dutchess County made it imperative to conserve the land now. Thanks to Dirt Capital Partners for working with us to enable Josh Morgenthau to achieve his dream and expand operations at Fishkill Farms. And thanks to Hudson Highlands Land Trust and Dutchess Land Conservancy for generously supporting our acquisition of the entire 345-acre property,” said Scenic Hudson Land Trust Executive Director Steve Rosenberg.
“Private capital is essential for conserving enough land to meet growing demands for healthy, local food. By collaborating with Dirt Capital Partners we’re not only bringing much-needed farmland back into production, but helping to grow the valley’s agricultural and tourism economies. This acquisition also protects a classic Hudson Highlands landscape—old-growth forest, a dramatic ravine, wetlands and a pristine, trout-filled creek. We’re grateful to Hudson Highlands Land Trust and Dutchess Land Conservancy for working with us to conserve this ecological and agricultural treasure, and to the previous owners for generously pursuing a sale that would preserve the land and allow it to be brought back to farming,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.
“Scenic Hudson and Fishkill Farms are exactly the types of partners we like to work with,” said Dirt Capital Founder Jacob Israelow. “As an impact investment in farmland, this project checks every box: regenerating abandoned farmland using ecological practices, conserving land at risk of housing development, providing a clear path to ownership for the farmer, and supporting an enterprise that provides locally-grown food and farm-based education to its community. The transaction’s innovative structure appropriately balances risk while aligning farmer, investor and conservation interests. Scenic Hudson led a tremendous multi-year effort to prep the ground for a fruitful collaboration.”
“Fishkill Farms is thrilled to partner with Scenic Hudson on this recent transaction and looks forward to being able to expand our operation,” said Fishkill Farms owner, Josh Morgenthau. “Enlarging our farm means more local healthy food for people to enjoy, and it also strengthens the local agricultural economy. We are also excited because this will provide us the opportunity to take back ownership of land that was once part of the farm decades ago.”
“We are thrilled this iconic property in East Fishkill has been permanently conserved. Not only is more farmland next to Fishkill Farms permanently conserved, but the adjacent forest will forever serve to make that farming operation stronger by protecting water quality, managing run-off and providing habitat to beneficial wildlife. We are grateful to Scenic Hudson and the Morgenthau family for turning this dream into a reality,” said Hudson Highlands Land Trust Executive Director Michelle Smith.
“It has been an honor for the Dutchess Land Conservancy to work with Scenic Hudson and the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, our valued partners in land protection, on this key re-uniting and protection of Fishkill Farms land. With the neighboring core 265-acre Fishkill Farms conserved in 2013 through the Morgenthau family’s work with the DLC, Dutchess County and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets, working now with Scenic Hudson to reclaim the agricultural history of this newly preserved land perfectly characterizes the Morgenthau family’s continued legacy of agricultural conservation in the Hudson Valley,” said Dutchess Land Conservancy President Rebecca Thornton.
“All her life, our mother, Joan Morgenthau Hirschhorn, appreciated the natural beauty of the land she grew up on in East Fishkill, calling it ‘God’s country.’ She passed on her love of this corner of southern Dutchess County to her three daughters, imbuing a respect for the picturesque and pastoral environs of her 340 acres of wooded forests and fallow apple orchards, even naming her parcels Heritage Acres. After her death in 2012, we embarked on an effort to find a land conservation organization to take over ownership of her legacy. After working closely with Matthew Shipkey and Michael Knutson and others at Scenic Hudson for close to five years, we are grateful to have transferred our land to the stewardship of Scenic Hudson,” said Elizabeth Hirschhorn Wilson, co-executor of Heritage Acres, LLC.
About Scenic Hudson
Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers.
About Dirt Capital Partners
Dirt Capital invests in farmland in partnership with experienced, profitable, sustainable farmers throughout the Northeast United States: enabling land access and a path to ownership for successful farmers while keeping farmland in productive and environmentally responsible use.
About Dutchess Land Conservancy
Dutchess Land Conservancy is a private, nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to preserving the scenic, agricultural and environmental resources of Dutchess County, including open spaces, forests, water resources and wildlife habitats. DLC has a long history of success working with partners to preserve this area’s rural landscape. Since 1985 DLC has worked with local landowners to protect over 41,000 acres of critical resource rich land. An accredited land trust, DLC has been successful in leveraging millions of private, town, county, state and federal dollars to preserve open space.
About Hudson Highlands Land Trust
The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is a community-based, accredited, non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands. Those wishing more information may contact the Hudson Highlands Land Trust at 845-424-3358 or visit www.hhlt.org.
About Fishkill Farms
Fishkill Farms has been in operation for over a century and produces homegrown organic vegetables and eco-certified fruit available year-round at its farm store in East Fishkill, N.Y., and through its seasonal pick-your-own operation, CSA program and several farmers markets in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Starting with peas and strawberries in the spring and culminating with apples and pumpkins in the fall, the farm provides family-friendly outdoor fun for the local community.