The Dutchess Land Conservancy celebrated a milestone in land conservation this month by reaching 25,000 acres protected in Dutchess County. Roughly 80% of the land protected by DLC is in agricultural districts, with 11,000 acres of prime and statewide important soils under easement and forever available for agricultural use. With metropolitan New York within commuting distance, development pressure has increased dramatically in the county, and with that the effort to keep large areas of farmland available for agricultural use becomes more critical.
Becky Thornton, President of DLC, is happy with their success and hopes they will be able to do more PDR projects in the future. “There are so many wonderful active working farms in Dutchess County whose landowners are ready and willing to ensure their land stays open and in production for future generations,” she says.
In 2001, DLC completed its first purchase of development rights (PDR) project on the 100 acre Mead Orchard in the town of Red Hook. The Mead family used the funds from this transaction to buy an adjoining 80 acre farm to expand their operation. In 2005, DLC successfully applied to the state for funds to purchase the development rights on the new 80 acres. To date, DLC has completed six PDR projects on farms in the county and have six additional projects in the works.
Part of DLC’s success in agricultural land protection has come from their ability to wed many sources of funding for PDR projects. DLC has worked with New York State Farmland Protection Program, Dutchess County [PDF], and local municipalities to organize projects and find sources of funding. Dutchess County operates an Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program which will contribute up to 50% of the cost of a PDR project. In addition, several towns in Dutchess County have bonded local funds to put towards the cost of PDR projects in their communities. The Town of Red Hook in northern Dutchess County will vote on a community preservation fund on May 1 that will raise essential local funds to contribute to these projects.
DLC is committed to promoting and protecting agriculture. For 15 years, DLC has hosted an annual Dutchess Farm Country Tour to celebrate farms in the county and to provide community members with opportunities to learn more about farming. The event takes place on farmland that is protected by DLC and it is accomplished with the help of around 100 volunteers. Attendees participate in activities such as wine tasting, nature walks, farm tours, farmers markets, and presentations.
To learn more visit The Dutchess Land Conservancy Open Space Grants [PDF] and NYS Farmland Protection Program Web sites.