Agricultural Stewardship AssociationAgricultural Stewardship Association

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Conservation Stories

Since its inception in 1990, ASA has helped landowners protect a variety of working lands throughout Washington and Rensselaer counties.
Deep Roots Holsteins


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.

But land in their area is expensive, so Albert and Donna started looking into programs that would help them protect the neighboring farm, to make it more affordable for them to purchase. "There's no more land around here to rent. It's started getting more competitive with other farmers and developers. We're young, and if we're going to stay here, we need enough land to farm," Donna says.

Donna and Albert worked with ASA to apply to the New York State Farmland Protection Program, and the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, for funding that would allow them to purchase the neighboring farm and protect it as well much of their own farm. They were accepted.

The couple—who come from generations of farm families—had their children in mind as well: sons Trenton, 16, Connor, 14, and Tanner, 12. All three boys have an interest in continuing to farm when they're older, but the farm needs enough land to support them.

"With farmers, it's not all about money," says Donna. "We work on a tight margin with milk production. When it comes to land, we just want to be able to stay here, and raise our family and take care of everybody."

This October, the project was finalized, bringing relief to Donna and Albert that the future of the farm is more secure now. Proceeds from the sale of development rights will help the farm expand and upgrade their operation with a new barn and milking parlor. "It's going to leave our sons in a better position, because they'll have more efficient facilities," says Donna.

The project also gave Donna and Albert the deep satisfaction of knowing they were fulfilling the wishes of Donna's father, who started the farm in 1956 with his father. "He wanted to see it stay a farm when he sold it to us," Donna says. "He loved the land, and he loved this farm. My father always said, 'Once you put down concrete, there's no going back.'"

And there's the gratification they gained in knowing that the land they love will stay farmland forever. "I'm not going to work here my entire life to have someone build houses," says Albert.

"When my father passed away, he had the peace of mind of knowing what was going to happen to the farm—and now I know too," Donna adds.

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