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Since its inception in 1990, the Agricultural Stewardship Association has helped landowners protect a variety of lands throughout Washington and Rensselaer counties. Regardless of their size, location, or type of easement, the unifying characteristic of these properties is that they are working lands, actively used for agriculture or forestry. Check out our maps of conserved land in Washington and Rensselaer counties.
Farmland for the Next Generation
By protecting their land, Donna and Albert Marns gained new security for their family farm's future.
When a neighboring farm came up for sale, Hudson Falls dairy farmers Albert and Donna Marns knew right away that they needed to try to buy it. They had been renting the farm's land, and it was important for their operation. "There was a developer looking at it, and it was right next door," says Albert.
Good quality farmland is at a premium in this corner of Washington County, where the Marns currently milk 200 cows on their Deep Roots Farm. Not far from Queensbury, farmland in their area is in demand for housing lots. They had already seen a neighboring farm fall to a developer and didn't want to see it happen again. "When they built a house on that neighboring farm, I cried," says Donna.
A Farm United and Preserved
In October, Sophia Healy realized a decades-long dream of seeing her beloved White Creek farm permanently protected.
Sophia Healy, an artist, novelist and native Vermonter, first visited White Creek in the early 1960s. Right away, she fell in love with the town and its people and knew it was a place where she wanted to put down roots. "I went back to North Bennington and told my friends I found this town and I want to live there," she says.
She started renting a 1788 farmhouse from a local farmer for $50 a month. You reached it by travelling over a charming bridge that crossed Little White Creek, the beautiful trout stream. At the time, only one room of the dilapidated house was habitable, but that didn't diminish her fondness for the place.
"When I moved here in '61, it was fantastic," Sophia recalls, sitting in the kitchen of that same farmhouse today, which she has since restored. "I just loved this place so much. I was so happy here. I love farming and the people here, and the incredible environment—it's so beautiful."
The fruit of their labor is as sweet as ever. And Forever.
John knew that conserving the land was going to be a lengthy process, but with the proceeds he would receive from conserving his farm, he could make some major investments in the irrigation system, solar panels and ensure that his family legacy would carry on. “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.”
John has already left the county sand pile in better condition than he found it. With no debt, a state-of-the-art irrigation system, and no power bill for the next 30 years, John thinks his Dad would approve. And you can see it all in action during this upcoming strawberry picking season in June.
Mary Ellen and Norm Williams bought Hawk View Farm (in Greenwich, NY) from Willard Reid in 1977. From the top of the hill behind the house to the West is a panoramic view of the Adirondacks. There is an equally splendid view of the Green Mountains to the East. Willard told the Williams that once, while plowing his fields with a team of horses, he had been able to count 49 other plow teams from the top of that hill.
The Williams are only the third family to live on the farm. When they bought the house, there was no one living there except wild critters. The house had a foot of water in the basement, early Edison lighting and no insulation. The main draw was the fact that the house and barns had not been modernized.
Over 30 years ago, while reading the morning paper, Jene and Kitty Highstein saw an interesting property for sale, a house and 125-acres of mostly forested land located on Bogtown Road in Salem, NY. While a second home was not in their plans, a place just a few hours from New York City seemed like a perfect weekend get-away. It would also provide some much needed serenity.
What they found on their first visit to the farm was undisturbed beauty. Recalling her first impressions of the property, Kitty said, “We fell in love with it from the moment we saw it. The bog is so beautiful and the animal habitat it creates was very important to us. We knew right then we wanted to preserve this special place.”
ASA closed the deal to conserve its 100th farm property, the McArthur-Sauert Farm on County Route 77 in Greenwich, NY. This historic farm, a beautiful landmark in Washington County, has been in agricultural production since before the Civil War. The farm was a successful dairy operation for most of the 100 years it has been owned by Joan McArthur-Fiske’s family.
Sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the Collins' farmhouse in the spring, the smell of freesia, lilacs and roses in intoxicating and the view of the Hudson River is striking. The Saratoga National Battlefield is visible from several vantage points around the farm. These 198 acres have been in farm production since 1739, forty years before Benedict Arnold betrayed the colonists just down the river at West Point. Over time, the farm became a working dairy that remained in operation until the 1960's. Five generations of Jill Collins' ancestors have worked these highly productive flat crop fields and pasturelands for over 100 years.
Since 1995, Hugh and Cassie Fedler have run a 200-head dairy operation off Route 372 in Cambridge. They milk 100 cows and sell to Agri-Mark. For a long time they relied on rented land to support their dairy, including a 156-acre piece of land along the Battenkill in Easton, just outside the Village of Greenwich, which provided critical acreage for raising corn and hay and pastureland for the heifers.
Buckland Farm, primarily a dairy and crop operation, has also been home to many horses throughout its history. Walt, former Conservationist of the Year, can tell you about the importance of maintaining good agricultural land. Thanks to the farm’s excellent soils, Walt’s efforts to improve those soils, and Ruth’s additional acres, Walt has been able to provide feed for his livestock as well as sell corn and hay to other farmers. As evidence of this good stewardship, abundant beavers, geese and ducks also enjoy a great lifestyle on the farms.
Neighbors Ruth Hill and Walter Buck fought off offers from developers to buy their adjoining farms for years. Part of what motivated them was the breathtaking 360-degree view from the highest point on Ruth farm, one of Ruth’s most beloved places on earth. (Just as breathtaking is a toboggan ride down Ruth’s hill in the winter!)
Sandwiched between the towns of Schaghticoke and Valley Falls, the Ruth Hill and Buckland farms are very special, not only to both families, but also to many in the community.
New York City residents Marcia and Charlie Reiss were visiting the track in Saratoga when they saw an ad for a canoe trip outfitter and decided to take a paddle down the Battenkill. They enjoyed it so much they drove back the next day to explore the region's back roads and discovered the home of their dreams for sale on Roberson Road in Shushan. It was a Greek revival built in 1840 with 47 acres of high quality farmland along the Battenkill, which has been in agricultural production since before the Revolutionary War.
Chuck and Diane Phippen originally came from a suburban community in the Hartford, Connecticut area. They shared an interest in agriculture and Chuck found a job with a local farmer milking once a week. He often brought his children along and remembers it as a "big adventure" that got them started on the road to becoming dairy farmers. They bought a farm in Central New York, but their goal was to raise grass fed cows and conditions there weren't quite right.
Sitting in the kitchen of Ed Slocum's family farmhouse on Route 40 in Easton, I asked Ed when his family moved there. He said, "Oh, I think it was about 1950 that we came here." I asked where they'd come from and he replied drily, pointing behind him, "Over on the mountain road." Remembering the farm his family used to own, Ed said, "They built a mansion up there. I decided I didn't need such stuff here."He's an Easton farmer through and through and so were his father and grandfather before him. Ed's family has been farming here as long as he can remember, and long before there was electricity.
Guy “Skip” Clark appreciates the value of good cropland. He’s a third generation dairy farmer and says that when his grandfather bought the family farm on Ashgrove Road in Cambridge in 1919 there were 29 small dairy farms in operation there. A neighbor picked up cans of milk from each family to bring to town daily. They started with 14 cows and farmed through the depression, although Skip says they almost couldn’t hold onto the land.
John McMahon proudly shows off his mounted collection of arrowheads which have all been found on his 714-acre farm located along the Hoosic River on Indian Massacre Road in Petersburgh and straddling the Vermont state border. A state historian has determined that some in the collection date back as far as 6,000 years. John explains, “My son Dan plows deep. Because of the rich, deep river-bottom soil here, you can plow 12” instead of the usual 8”and we’re always turning up arrowheads. People have been hunting, fishing and living here for a long time because it’s such a fertile valley. It’s also a great place to farm. ”
Alex Zagoreos is clearly proud to be milling the 7" x 7" beams needed to repair the barn sills at Jermain Hill Farm in White Creek. "It's such a pleasure when you're able to take the timber right from your own woods and see it transformed for use on the farm." He and his wife Marine and several partners bought this beautiful 319-acre farm, which connects the Mount Tom State Reforestation Area to the Little White Creek, in 1977.
“I was supposed to go to Yale and become a lawyer,” admits Matt Cannon, who grew up in a non-farming family in a suburb of Boston. “But I liked cows and the farming lifestyle and it was never a question what I wanted to do”. When he was 15 he spent a summer working on a local chicken farm and the next summer on a dairy farm in Lowville, NY where he developed his love for cows. From there he got a job at a dairy farm in Tunbridge, VT and went on to receive his degree in dairy herd management at Vermont Technical College.
“We’re in the dairy business and we’re going to stay in the dairy business”. Despite many hardships and challenges faced in more than 50 years of farming, Cliff Stewart is still passionate about how he and his family make their living. In 1959, he and his wife Janet bought Autumn View Acres on Route 40 in Easton on contract from a man who continued to live upstairs for a number of years until their family expanded. The Stewarts were just getting started with a small herd of 27 cows and the first of six children on the way.
“If Evelyn said the farm dates back to the Revolutionary War times, believe her.”
That was the response I received from the town historian when I questioned him about the age of Evelyn Braymer’s farm. The 145-acre farm on County Route 153 in Salem sits on a hill overlooking farm fields in all directions. The barns on her property date back to the 18th century and were likely built around the time of Salem’s founding in 1761. She has an astounding memory of life growing up with farming in Washington County as well as many insightful things to say about the state of agriculture today.
Stone Wall Hill Farm, home of “The Berry Patch” is permanently protected
The loyal customers of The Berry Patch in Stephentown got a fabulous Christmas present when their neighborhood produce farm was permanently protected on December 22, 2009. The fields and farm store owned by Dale Riggs and Don Miles are well known in the area, and the conservation project generated broad community support. Over 100 people directly contributed about $13,000 to help with project costs and to ensure that this part of their valley would always remain in agriculture.
This January, ASA was pleased to start the New Year by helping the Herrington family complete protection of their 120-acre Robe-Jan Farm in Schaghticoke.
George C. Houser Jr. Conserves the Final 302-Acre Portion of the 1,030-Acre Brotherhood Farms in Easton
This farm is well known for its rich history, quality soils, and scenic beauty, and now has the further distinction of being the largest farmland conservation project in Rensselaer County.
St. Croix is a 688-acre farm in northern Rensselaer County with fertile soils and frontage on the Hoosick River. The farm has a long and colorful history. It began as part of an enormous land grant given to the Van Rensselaer family by the Dutch government. In its current dimensions of roughly a square mile, St. Croix has been in continuous cultivation since the 1780’s under a succession of just four families. The beautiful farmhouse was built in the 1860’s, while the large barns were constructed very early in the 20th century. These structures, now used by the third and fourth generations of the Moore family, stand as testaments to the ongoing productivity of the farm.
This beautiful farmland was conserved by ASA with help from the Castanea Foundation. It has now been purchased at its agricultural value by neighboring farmers as support land for their dairy operation.
Collaboration between ASA and the Castanea Foundation allowed this farm to be purchased, conserved, and then sold at its agricultural value to the Michel family, a multigenerational family who had everything they needed for farming except their own land.
John and Peg Underwood, working together with ASA and the Battenkill Conservancy, protected their productive forested property on a tributary of the Battenkill River, thus assuring that it will remain working land for generations to come.
Following the lead of their parents whose farm was protected a year earlier, the three Ziehm brothers conserved their newly acquired farm in order to be able to realize the dream of farming in Washington County.
Derial Sanders generously donated a conservation easement on a magnificent parcel of land which supports abundant wildlife on its prominent hilltops, managed forestland, and working fields.
Mark T. and Quimby Mahoney have lived for many years in southeastern Massachusetts, where Mark has a carpentry and construction business. They wanted to retire to this area to be nearer to one of their daughters and her family, and their search for a new home ended when they found the former Ed Levin property.
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.”