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Dutchess County Collaborates with Local Land Trusts to Preserve Iconic Shenandoah Farm in East Fishkill

Colleen Pillus

(845) 486-2000

(NOTE: the following news release was issued by Dutchess County, one of Scenic Hudson’s partners on this farmland conservation project)

POUGHKEEPSIE, Dutchess County—Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro has announced Dutchess County has completed acquisition of a 39-acre farmland conservation easement that expands the iconic Shenandoah Farm in East Fishkill, in partnership with the Dutchess Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson Land Trust and Hudson Highlands Land Trust, through the Partnership for Manageable Growth (PMG). Funding was approved by the Dutchess County Legislature in March 2016, based on recommendation from the Dutchess County Planning Board.

The County, through the Partnership for Manageable Growth, contributed $80,000 toward the purchase of the development rights of the Manne property, which abuts the Shenandoah Farm, ensuring the land remains open and available for farming for current and future generations. The Dutchess Land Conservancy contributed $56,317, and Hudson Highlands Land Trust and Scenic Hudson Land Trust contributing $26,677 each. At the closing for the conservation easement, the Manne property, which has been leased by the Shenandoah Farm for many years, was purchased by and made part of the Shenandoah Farm, further ensuring its continued use for agriculture.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Through the Partnership for Manageable Growth, Dutchess County is able to preserve farmlands that are key to keeping our agricultural heritage alive for generations to come. Agriculture, as a whole, benefits Dutchess County in various ways – from our economy and aesthetic beauty, to our communities’ charm and the health of our residents – and farming remains one of our strongest industries. Dutchess County continues to be positively affected by the farmlands we preserve through the Partnership for Manageable Growth.”

The Shenandoah Farm is owned by the multi-generation Jackson family, who have a long history of dairy farming in East Fishkill. The establishment of a conservation easement on the Manne property enabled the Jacksons to purchase these properties for continued farm use. Shenandoah Farm is a Century Farm and a Dairy of Distinction, producing approximately 2,300 pounds of milk each day (just under one million pounds per year), which is sold to Hudson Valley Fresh, a dairy cooperative. Corn, alfalfa and hay are also grown on the farm. As part of the “Gateway to Dutchess County” located at the southwest junction of Interstate 84 and the Taconic State Parkway, the farm vista signals arrival in pastoral Dutchess County and as a symbol of the County’s agricultural and natural heritage. More than 500,000 cars pass by this farm each week on the Taconic State parkway and I-84.

Dutchess County Legislator John Metzger said, “The Shenandoah Farm is a true treasure in East Fishkill. Agriculture is a challenging industry, and I am proud of Dutchess County’s commitment to local farms. These investments pay huge dividends – strengthening our local economy and enhancing our quality of life with healthy food options and environmental protection.”

Selling development rights encourages property owners to permanently preserve their land for agriculture, providing important funds to reinvest in a farm operation or transition a farm to the next generation. In this case, the purchase of the easement allowed the Jacksons to permanently reacquire land important to the Shenandoah Farm’s continued success.

Owner Verne Jackson said, “This land was originally owned by my great grandfather. We’ve been working the land for many, many years. It is a natural part of our farm. This transaction has now brought the land home.”

Dutchess Land Conservancy President Becky Thornton said, “We are very proud to have had the opportunity to work with the Jackson family to purchase land that they have actively farmed for over 53 years. It is a wonderful addition to their neighboring Shenandoah Farm and could not have come at a more perfect time – the farm celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. The land was protected simultaneously with the sale to the Jackson family contributing to both the local farming economy and helping to protect part of the I-84 and the Taconic State Parkway viewshed. We are tremendously grateful to our partners, Dutchess County, Scenic Hudson, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, the EPA, and Joseph Manne for helping to make a long term goal of the Jacksons come to fruition.”

The protection of the Manne property also has advantages for County residents beyond access to fresh and healthy foods. Even after development rights are sold, agricultural lands stay on the tax rolls, ensuring towns can continue to provide critical services. Studies indicate agricultural lands cost communities significantly less to provide services to than residential lands. In addition, the Manne property is uniquely valuable to agricultural tourism development.

The significance of the scenic view of the landscape offered by Shenandoah Farm, which now includes the additional 39 acres with a conservation easement, is but one of the reasons this project was able to draw support from not only Dutchess County, but from the three local land trust partners.

Scenic Hudson Land Trust Executive Director Steve Rosenberg, “Great news for an important farm. We must nurture our farmland for our economy and jobs but also for a Hudson Valley foodshed supplying fresh, healthy food to people in the valley and New York City. Seeing this farm while driving past on the Taconic Parkway and Interstate 84 reminds people of what is special about the Hudson Valley. Scenic Hudson is proud we contributed to strengthening this farm, and we are thankful to County Executive Mark Molinaro and his staff, as well as the County Legislature, for their partnership and financial investment. Cheers to partners Dutchess Land Conservancy and Hudson Highlands Land Trust. We also thank staff at the EPA whose help and commitment to conserving this dairy farm was tremendous.”

Dutchess County Legislator Marge Horton said, “Protecting the Shenandoah Farm fulfills the mission of the Partnership for Manageable Growth – preserving Dutchess County’s great legacy of farming. My legislative colleagues and I appreciate the proud tradition agriculture has played in our county’s development, and the current role it plays in keeping Dutchess County robust, and we are proud to support projects like this to ensure farming remains vibrant for years to come.”

Hudson Highlands Land Trust Executive Director Michelle Smith said, “The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is delighted to partner with Shenandoah Farms, Dutchess County, Dutchess Land Conservancy and Scenic Hudson to protect this farmland in East Fishkill. Situated between Shenandoah and Hosner Mountains, both of which are traversed by the Appalachian Trail, and with close proximity to two major highways, this farmland was at high risk of development. We commend our partners on taking the lead to ensure its permanent protection.”