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The Agricultural Stewardship Association is a private, community supported non-profit land trust protecting valuable farmland in Washington and Rensselaer counties for future generations. We help landowners who want to protect their productive land with conservation easements. ASA also accepts responsibility for the ongoing stewardship of each conserved property, ensuring that the land is used in a way that is consistent with the terms of the agreement. ASA actively promotes public awareness of farmland conservation and encourages policies which support and enhance agriculture.
Protecting our community's working landscape of farms and forests, connecting people to the land, and promoting a vibrant future for agriculture in the region.
In 1984, a group of Washington County citizens who were concerned about the future of agriculture and loss of productive farmland to development in the region formed the Agricultural Opportunities Committee. This group researched and implemented strategies to keep agriculture economically viable. Many farmers expressed interest in using conservation as a tool to protect their lands and keep them affordable for farming. Although American Farmland Trust (AFT) already existed as a vehicle for farmland conservation in the state, many felt that there were good reasons to establish a separate body that would be locally based and controlled.
When ASA was founded in the spring of 1990, there was no office, staff, or money. But the Board of Directors had a vision of conserving Washington County’s agricultural lands. The original incorporators were George Houser Jr., Jim Perry, and Pamela Cali. The organization received technical support from AFT, an organization with which ASA has maintained an excellent working relationship over the years.
Most of the early projects involved landowners donating easements to ASA. During this time, ASA also started working with a private foundation to protect three farms in Salem.
In 1995, ASA provided the match that enabled Washington County to develop an agricultural and farmland protection plan. The adoption of the plan led to the county partnering with ASA to establish a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program in 1997. The Stewart Dairy Farm and Moy Farms in Easton and the Campbell Farm in Hebron were the first farms protected under the PDR program.
By 2003 ASA had completed 29 projects and conserved 3,347 acres of land. Up to this point, ASA functioned with only volunteers, aided as necessary by paid consultants and professionals. With the establishment of the PDR program, ASA’s momentum began to build and interest increased.
It became apparent that if the organization was to expand and meet national standards and practices, it would have to build its capacity. The need for paid professional staff was the most important imperative, as well as reliable funding to support the position. The Board of Directors began taking the necessary steps to bring the organization to the next level.
Private and public funding was secured, which enabled ASA to hire staff and begin a period of growth. In 2003, Teri Ptacek was hired as the Executive Director. Teri had worked for more than eight years at American Farmland Trust (AFT) in the areas of policy, education, and developing agricultural and farmland protection plans for counties and towns.
ASA’s first strategic plan, adopted in 2002, confirmed the direction to build organizational capacity and significantly expand farmland conservation efforts.
In 2006 ASA adopted its first Farmland Conservation Plan with a goal of protecting 15,000 acres by the end of 2010. The plan identifies priority conservation areas where ASA focuses its conservation efforts. We are working on updating this plan.
At the request of landowners, ASA began working on farmland protection projects in northern Rensselaer County. The Sherman Farm in Pittstown and the Weir Farm in Schaghticoke were the first farms protected by ASA in Rensselaer County. In 2007 Rensselaer County asked ASA to administer PDR projects throughout the county.
ASA’s growth and success over the years is due in large part to the leadership of a series of effective Board Presidents: Pam Cali, Bill Eberle, Kate McQuerry, David Horn, and Seth Jacobs. A team of four full - time and two part - time staff members now manage day-to-day operations.
In the 11 years since 2003, ASA has concluded easements on 67 additional properties totaling 11,747 acres and has another 8 projects consisting of 1,400 acres in the process of being protected. Outreach events and programs have also multiplied, with the result that ASA has become more widely known, receiving vital support within the communities it serves.
The Latest NEWS
By protecting their land, Albert and Donna Marns gained new security for their family farms future.
ASA closed the deal to conserve our 100th property, the McArthur-Sauert Farm on County Route 77 in Greenwich.
“It’s an exciting time on the farm,” John says, “It has taken six years but it’s all coming together at the same time.”