FINAL 302-ACRE PORTION OF BROTHERHOOD FARMS Conserved
TOWN OF EASTON
George C. Houser Jr. Conserves the Final 302-Acre Portion of the 1,030-Acre Brotherhood Farms in Easton
If it weren’t for George Houser, there might not have been an Agricultural Stewardship Association. As one of ASA’s founding members, his determination to protect his own land from development led to the birth of ASA and inspired many of his neighbors along the Route 40 corridor in Easton to conserve their land as well. With this last 302-acre parcel, which has been in the family for at least 205 years, the Housers have completed protection of their 1,030-acre farm. As George’s wife Earline explains, “Conservation is in George’s DNA”.
Growing up, George lived with his parents in Boston and spent summers working on his grandmother’s dairy farm and apple orchard with his uncles. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in government but decided he’d rather go back to Easton and help run the farm.
Earline was also from an Easton family who owned land in Barker’s Grove. Her father worked as a dairy trucker and got to know George while picking milk up at the farm. He sent her over to buy apples so she could meet George. When they hit it off, George, in turn, started coming around to buy eggs from Earline’s mother.
They married at her home in 1962. Their son, George Houser III was born a year later on their anniversary and daughter Charlene came along soon after. From the time he was two and a half and escaped the yard to follow a cow path through the field and across Route 40 to the farmyard, Earline knew that George III was a born farmer.
George and Earline have always been committed to their community. Earline worked as a teacher at Greenwich Junior High, is Easton’s town historian and an author. With his background and interest in government, George was a founding member of Easton’s planning board and throughout the years, served on many committees dedicated to developing agriculture in Washington County.
Along the way, George met Pam Cali, a community activist and Jim Perry, a farmer and soil conservationist. At the time, development pressure from the Capital region was growing and they shared the belief that protecting valuable farmland from encroaching development was essential if we were to ensure a future for farming in the county. With help and guidance from George Allen and Amy Stott, they worked for a year and a half, four to five evenings a week, to get ASA incorporated as New York’s first local agricultural land trust.
George conserved his first piece of land with American Farmland Trust. In 1996, after helping ASA get started, he donated conservation easements to ASA on two more parcels of land. Each subsequent piece of land he inherited or bought to support the dairy operation he conserved in turn.
In 2008, George Houser asked ASA to help him realize his conservation plan and protect the final portion of Brotherhood Farm. The Castanea Foundation provided funding to purchase a conservation easement on the final 302-acres, and a grant from the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership Program covered transaction costs. Today, the entire 1,030-acre farm is protected, ensuring that this productive land will always be available for agriculture.
George and Earline feel very strongly that they have done right by their family, community and the land that they love. George explains, “It’s beyond personal. People have to have food and the land to grow it. Together, I feel like we accomplished a great thing.”
For Earline, it is also a very personal matter. “George and I were so fortunate to have a close family. His uncles and grandmother lived out their lives on the farm and could see it being farmed every day out their window. George still feels connected to my departed father and we are so proud to see our son care for the same land. For me, it is about caring for the family and the land right to the end.”