We joined the Film Society of the Lincoln Center to screen Fresh, a provocative documentary on the present and future of food production that highlights groundbreaking sustainable farming practices while encouraging debate and action. The screening was followed by a discussion with director Ana Sophia Joanes, AFT's David Haight, Hudson Valley farmer Cheryl Rogowski, and Jacqui Berger of Just Food with Jen Small of American Farmland Trust and Flying Pigs Farm moderating.
Tomatoes, pumpkins, bread, wine, pesto, flowers! The Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market in Buffalo has them all. We teamed up with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County to lead workshops on preserving the harvest and protecting the land. Participants learned how to freeze a variety of fresh, in-season vegetables to retain their flavor and nutritional value. They also learned how support of local farmers helps keep land in western New York available for farming. We can’t have local food without local farmland!
Our fall webinar series tackled some of the toughest challenges related to protecting farmland at the local level. Topics such as “Creating a Local Voice for Agriculture in Your Community,” “Funding Opportunities for Agricultural Economic Development,” and “Building Consensus to Implement Your Town's Farmland Protection Plan” took place throughout October, November and December.
For more information, contact Judy Wright, CNY Field Representative.
Leaders in Western New York’s farm and food world enjoyed a screening of the documentary film Fresh on at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo. Fresh celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are reinventing our food system. There was an informative panel discussion after the movie with American Farmland Trust’s Diane Held, NOFA-NY, farmers, and others. The screening was presented by Edible Buffalo and sponsored by American Farmland Trust and Buffalo Spree.
Farms can produce fresh, local foods and renewable energy—while adding to the character of a community and the health of the environment. Farmland supporters gathered in Syracuse for a one-day conference that helped participants understand the benefits generated by local farms and how towns and counties can take action to support local farmers and protect farmland.
Photo Courtesy of Barbara Johnston,
Stewart Brown & Associates
Town residents in Parma responding to a 2007 survey identified protecting farmland as a top priority for the community. “That survey spurred our Town to establish a Farmland and Open Space Committee and our first action was to obtain a state grant to develop a Municipal Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan,” said Scott Copey, committee chair.
Scott added, “we have had tremendous support from residents and the Town Board as well as our consultant, Stuart I. Brown Associates, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Monroe County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, and organizations like the Genesee Land Trust and American Farmland Trust.”
Implementation of the recently adopted Plan is already underway. The town and Monroe County are sharing the cost to permanently protect a 114 acre farm; the reappointed Farmland and Open Space Committee is prioritizing code revisions per the Plan Recommendations; and a Parma Committee member has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Monroe County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets recently released a Request for Proposals for up to $500,000 to assist land trusts in their work to protect farmland. Last year, American Farmland Trust worked with state legislators, land trusts, farm groups and others to pass legislation making these grants possible.
Currently, 75 percent of farmland protection projects submitted to the state have land trust involvement. The funding will assist land trusts in providing advice to communities and landowners in meeting their farmland protection goals. The availability of these grants is another important step in improving the efficiency of the state’s Farmland Protection Program.
Erie County has become the first county in New York to seek state funding to update its county agricultural and farmland protection plan. The importance of having a strategy for the future of farms, food and agricultural industry was outlined in Erie County’s Road to a Bright Future [PDF], a report from County Executive Chris Collins.
With 25 percent of Erie County in agricultural production and over $117 million in farm products sold annually, farms are significant contributors to the local economy, landscape and food network. The update will create a unique opportunity to engage new and more diverse partners in local farm, food, and farmland protection issues.
Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and a coalition of food activists recommended that the city of New York adopt a wide-ranging plan for making healthy food available to its residents. The recommendations, part of a report entitled Food in the Public Interest, included designating a New York City “foodshed” with a radius of 200 miles that would give farmers increased access and incentives to sell at city markets. Such bold policy recommendations are critical to protecting farms in upstate New York while providing increased access to local food for city residents.
We reminded readers of the Buffalo News last Thanksgiving about the gifts that farmland brings—both the edible gifts and those you can’t taste but always enjoy. Well-managed farmland protects water quality, provides wildlife habitat and grows fresh local food for New Yorkers, all while contributing to the economy of upstate New York. This holiday season, as this state and many others grapple with difficult financial decisions, remember the gifts that farmland provides for your community and take action to support it.
In October, over forty people joined the Spoth family to celebrate the protection of Greg’s U-Pick Farm. The most recent of seven properties to be protected as part of the Clarence Greenprint program, Greg’s U-Pick Farm is now part of 456 acres of preserved farmland and natural lands in the town of Clarence, Erie County. For Greg and Sandy Spoth, permanently protecting their 102-acre farm means that their children, and their children’s children, will have the opportunity to continue growing and selling blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins and corn on the farm that they have worked for over 20 years.
Jefferson County’s economy and rural heritage is dependent upon the strength of its agricultural industry, as the county has 970 farms operating on 40 percent of its land base. Jefferson County’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board recently completed a study [PDF], with assistance from American Farmland Trust, to determine the feasibility of using a Purchase of Development Rights program to protect the industry and land use for future generations. With ambitious goals and strong recommendations, the study puts Jefferson County in a better position to protect the land that farmers depend on.
|Pindar Damianos of Duck Walk Vineyards
Suffolk County on Long Island is New York's number one agricultural county—with more than $250 million in sales in 2006. At the same time, the county experiences some of the most intense development pressure in the state. Faced with burgeoning growth, communities on the East End of Long Island have been faced with the choice to protect farmland and the agricultural industry or watch as housing replaces farm fields. Hudson Valley local, county and state officials embarked on a bus tour to see the results of that choice and learn about the challenges that face farmland protection on Long Island today. More
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Wyoming County held its annual County Fair this summer, and in addition to great food, entertainment, and rides, the County passed its Right to Farm Law .
The Wyoming County Board of Supervisors enacted this local law to support theirthriving agricultural industry. A local Right to Farm Law [PDF] is aimed at maintaining a supportive environment for farmers and reinforcing the “right-to-farm” provisions provided in New York State Agricultural District Law.
In 2005, the County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board developed a Plan for supporting farms and protecting farmland in the county. Strategies in the Plan include passage of a County Right to Farm Law. Copies of the Wyoming County Agricultural Development and Farmland Protection Plans are available from the Wyoming County Department of Planning and Development.
The Towns of North East, Red Hook and Clinton lie on the northern edge of Dutchess County and boast quality agricultural soils and entrepreneurial farmers who have adapted to changes in the agriculture industry over the last 50 years to remain viable in spite of challenging economic times and changing land use patterns. However, the increasing growth of the second homeowner population in these communities has made town leaders recognize the need to proactively plan for agriculture in order to ensure its future.
Voters in Red Hook approved the Community Preservation Act last year in a referendum that narrowly passed. The Act created a local real estate transfer fee on the value of homes above the county median. The buyer pays the fee and the funds go into the Community Preservation Fund – a dedicated line for farmland and open space protection and historic preservation. After only one year the fund stands at almost $240,000. Such local capacity for farmland protection work is often the key to getting deals done.
North East and Clinton are actively working to create agriculture and farmland protection plans through funding from the Department of Agriculture and Markets that will encourage, support and protect agriculture as a business and a land use in the community. The Town of Clinton recently had an open house and farm tour to kick off their planning process with AFT New York Director David Haight as keynote speaker. AFT is working with North East on their plan and anticipates holding a public meeting in October.
The latest innovation in local food products, Mercer’s Dairy in Oneida County, had a brilliant idea – why not combine New York ice cream with New York wines to create a tasty adult dessert? The idea was meant with strong enthusiasm, but also conflict as it would require a change in state law to allow marketing of the ice cream. The New York legislature approved the required changes this session through successful teamwork between Mercer’s Dairy, New York Farm Bureau and the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Magee and Senator Griffo. Look for Mercer’s wine ice cream to be coming to a store near you!
Historically, the town of Brutus was known for two things—quality farm products and agricultural machinery—both distributed to the rest of New York state through the Erie Canal. Direct access to reliable transportation made businesses successful and the village of Weedsport thrived as a result.
Today, the New York State Thruway offers some of the same opportunities for distribution of farm products. It also encourages the distribution of people, however, and the town has become a bedroom community for commuters to nearby Syracuse and Rochester. This development pressure has had an impact on the farm community, with a loss of agricultural land and reduction in the number of active farm operations.
The town of Brutus was one of the first towns to receive state funding from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop a municipal agriculture and farmland protection plan. Working with American Farmland Trust, Brutus intends to support the remaining 44 active farms in town and ensure that agriculture continues to play a strong role in the community, economy and history of the town.
On March 14th, 2009 the town of Amherst in Erie County, New York, celebrated the permanent protection of 178 acres of valuable farmland. Don and Dan Spoth of Donald Spoth Farms and Rick and Karen Vilonen of Ben Brook Farm recently protected 129 acres and 49 acres, respectively. The town of Amherst and the Western New York Land Conservancy now co-hold agricultural conservation easements on a total of 716 acres of farmland in Amherst.
“This land will always be available for local farmers to grow agricultural products,” said Diane Held, New York Field Representative for American Farmland Trust. “Both families can sell this land to other farmers or family members at agricultural value rather than at the high development prices of much of the land in the town.”
Representatives from the offices of Congressman Thomas Reynolds, State Senator Mary Lou Rath and State Senator Antoine Thompson attended the celebration along with county and town officials. Western New York farmers and vendors showcased locally grown foods at the event, many of which are sold at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market (www.elmwoodmarket.org). The event reinforced the need to protect farmland as the foundation of a sustainable local food system.
Town of Marilla Celebrates Milestone in Farmland Conservation
State and local officials gathered with farm landowners to celebrate the permanent protection of the 80-acre Crystal Spring Farm, owned by brothers Mark, Keith, and Michael Foss. The Town of Marilla has now protected a total of 773 acres of viable farmland that will remain available for local agriculture in perpetuity. More
Town of Chatham (Columbia County) – Approximately 25% of the total acreage in the Town of Chatham is used for active agriculture. Town citizens began to worry about this important component of their community as they saw an increase in second homeowners in town. Working with the Glynwood Center, town members underwent Keep Farming: Connecting Communities, Farmers and Food™, a formal process that surveys farms and their impact on the community.
Town of Warwick (Orange County) – The Town has worked in close collaboration with the Villages within it’s jurisdiction to direct development towards village centers using incentive zoning. The town first invested in protecting farmland through a voter-approved bond act of $9.5 million in 2000. Most recently, the community approved a ballot initiative to implement a real estate transfer tax to fund local farmland and open space protection efforts.
New Applications, New Opportunities: The Ireland Family Farm, Onondaga County
September 17th, 2008 marked the deadline for the New York State Farmland Protection Program applications and this year’s applicant pool looks to be one of the strongest in program history. Over the next several months, AFT will be highlighting farms across the state that have applied to permanently protect their land for future generations. This month, read about
Ireland Farm, a
595 acre farm run by fifth and sixth generation Ireland family members in Spafford, New York.
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