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DLC adds to its easement portfolio

by Stephen Kaye
Thu Sep 29th, 2016

With the addition of a conservation easement on 87.5 acres, the Dutchess Land Conservancy inched towards the 40,000 acre mark of land under easement.  It is just 10 acres short according to Art Collings of the DLC. 

The latest easement was on a farm owned by Larry and Betti Steel in Milan and is farmed by Anthony Mecca and Sarah Hearn who run the Great Song Farm with 110 members in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  They have a fruit and vegetable operation with bees and laying hens and cattle.  The easement was purchased by the DLC with funds provided by the county and federal governments through the State’s Department of Ag and Markets.  The county contributed $115,750 and the state $347,780 towards the purchase of the development rights.  The DLC contributed $32,500 in cash and services.

We spoke with Karin Esme Roux, DLC’s Senior Land project manager who said the owners agreed to accept less than the appraised value of their development rights. 

She said this was the second purchase of development rights she has worked on this year.  The first was a 185 acre parcel owned by Ronnybrook Dairy that was funded by Ag and Markets and Scenic Hudson.    

County Executive Marc Molinaro is quoted in a press release as saying, "The Partnership for Manageable Growth program allows us to strategically preserve farmlands that are the basis for agriculture which is a vital, diverse and growing economic engine throughout the County. Agriculture has always been, and continues to be, one of Dutchess County's primary industries. Our economy, rural landscape, community character, environment, health and overall quality of life are all positively affected by farms operating here. Agriculture has changed through time and continues to evolve and diversify; it plays a significant role in both the economy and quality of life for Dutchess County residents. Through the PMG and other innovative programs, the County is promoting a vibrant future for agriculture. We are grateful for the partnership of NYS Ag & Markets, as well as Dutchess Land Conservancy in making this latest farm preservation possible."

In March 2016, the county executive announced awards of $935,855 to permanently protect six farms. The Steel project is the first of the six to be completed. The total of farmland properties protected through the PMG program is now approximately 3,372 acres.  

Gregg Pulver, county legislator and a farmer from Pine Plains, is on the County Agricultural Advisory Committee which is responsible for reviewing and approving applications for funding the acqusition of easements on farmland. Other members include Rebecca Thornton, Executive director of the DLC and Harry Baldwin of Millbrook, a retired farmer. 

The county has announced that it is accepting applications from famers or owners of farmland who wish to apply for funding for placing conservation easements on their land.  The DLC can work with applicants in developing the application.