ASA Completes Three State-Funded Farmland Protection Projects
John McMahon (owner of Hooskip Farm), Teri Ptacek (ASA), NY State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine, Steven Acquario from the NYS Association of Counties, Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino and Dan McMahon.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Meegan Finnegan
Conservation Projects Total 1,273 Acres
GREENWICH, NY -- The Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA) is pleased to announce the recent completion of three farmland conservation projects, totaling 1,273 acres, in the towns of Pittstown, Hoosick, Petersburgh, and Jackson. All projects received funding from the New York State Farmland Protection Program, which is funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
Matt and Peggy Cannon purchased the Cannon Cattle Ranch, a 358-acre dairy farm in Pittstown, in 1979. Over the years they’ve made many improvements to the farm and grown their herd to about 115 milking cows and 90 young stock. They’ve purchased additional acreage and for the past 30 years have rented land from their neighbor, Theresa Baum, to raise feed crops.
Matt and Peggy aren’t sure what will happen to the farm when they can no longer work it but wanted to make sure it stays a farm. Matt explains “I’d already heard a lot about conservation and have had it in the back of my mind for a long time. It’s a good fit for us. We worked hard to build this farm, our retirement is in it and we don’t want to see it go down the drain. We want to see another farmer here someday.”
The Cannons and Baum, who was also determined to protect her property from future development, worked with ASA and the Town of Pittstown to secure funding through the New York State Farmland Protection Program. Not only has conservation satisfied their shared desire to see the land remain in farming, but it has also given the Cannons the opportunity to purchase the land they’ve rented from Baum at its reduced, agricultural value, strengthening their operation’s viability.
Hooskip Farm, owned by John and Mary McMahon and their son Dan McMahon, is located on the Hoosic River in Petersburgh and straddles the Vermont border. John and Dan operate a 115-cow dairy operation and raise all of their feed on the farm’s rich, river-bottom fields. John says that these superb soils produce nutrient-rich crops, which are in turn responsible for his cow’s strong production and the operation’s success. Soils like these, he felt, should be protected.
The McMahons had already conserved 371 acres of their farm in Vermont with the Vermont Land Trust before working with ASA and Rensselaer County to apply for New York State Farmland Protection Program funding on the remaining 343 acres in New York. Conservation will eventually enable John’s retirement and the transition of the farm to Dan. To date, 1,338 acres of contiguous land have been conserved in this rich valley formed by the Hoosic River.
Also protected is the Stearns Brothers Farm, consisting of two non-contiguous parcels, one of which lies across the river from the McMahon’s farm in Petersburgh and another nearby on Breese Hollow Road in Hoosick. The Stearns retired in 2007 and were renting their land to Guy Clark, who runs a 198-cow dairy operation and custom crop business based in Cambridge. Since only 40 acres of the 287 he owns there are tillable, renting land to support his operation was critical.
The Stearns wanted to see their land remain in agriculture but needed to sell to provide for their retirement. In addition to the Stearns’ land, Clark was also renting a critical parcel of land along Route 313 in Jackson which was also up for sale. Looking for a way to secure both parcels at an affordable rate, Clark asked ASA for assistance.
Castanea Foundation, ASA’s long-time conservation partner, was able to act quickly and purchase the Stearns’ parcels and the 313 parcel as an interim conservation buyer. Clark and Castanea then worked with ASA and Washington County to apply for New York State Farmland Protection Program funding to conserve all three properties.
Clark explains, “I can’t say enough good things about the Castanea Foundation and ASA. I wouldn’t have been able to secure this land, which is so important to my business, without their help.” The Whipstock Hill Preservation Society also contributed funding to protect the Stearns portion.
The Clarks were able to purchase one of the Stearns’ parcels and the land on Route 313 and plan to purchase the remaining Stearns parcel in the near future. In all, 539 acres have been protected and conservation has enabled the transition of land from one farming family to the next.
Municipal partners on these projects include Rensselaer County, Washington County and the Town of Pittstown.
The Agricultural Stewardship Association was founded in 1990 by farmers to protect agricultural land and ensure a future for farming in our region. To date, ASA has helped protect 13,701 acres on 90 properties in Washington and Rensselaer counties. For more information about ASA’s work, visit www.agstewardship.org.