307 ACRES conserved IN THE TOWN OF FORT ANN
Douglas Fuller has spent his entire life dairy farming, and couldn't imagine living any other way. All through high school he woke up and helped his father milk their 20 cows before getting on the school bus (that his father drove). Then he'd come home after school and do it again in the evening.
Douglas' grandparents, Marion and Samuel "Buster" Fuller, started farming in the 'Welch Hollow' valley of Fort Ann. They began with a 20-cow stanchion barn, a couple of fields and a woodlot with a sap house for making maple syrup. Douglas' parents, Harold and Beverly, bought a farm down the road from Marion and Buster years later. Douglas grew up helping on both farms, learning from his grandmother Marion, who taught the men in the family how to farm. "She was a force to be reckoned with," Douglas says with a laugh. He flips to a story in a Fort Ann history book describing how Marion and her brother Walt had been making hay all day and came home to find their farmhand, Beamis, asleep in the hay mow with the wagon still loaded. Marion charged into the barn and came back out chasing Beamis, pitchfork in hand.
When Douglas took over the business, he rented nearby farmland to grow more feed for the cows. He eventually bought two neighboring farms totaling 212 acres, built a modern milking parlor in 1990, and moved into one of the farmhouses with his wife, Patricia. Beverly and Harold remained active on the farm for many years, Harold helping with field work and boiling syrup while Beverly worked in the calf barns and milking parlor, as well as supplying their many syrup customers.
Fuller Acres has now been a dairy for more than 60 years and Douglas has borne witness to changes in the landscape over time. "When I was a teenager, there were 15 other dairy farms in this valley," he says, "Now we're one of two that remain." Dairying can be a tough business, especially for small farms that lack the means to adapt to changing times and fluctuating markets. Douglas began to worry about the future of the farm that has been his life's work.
That's when Douglas learned about the Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), and the option to sell his development rights and conserve the land in perpetuity through the state's farmland protection program. He worked with ASA to apply to the program in spring of 2016. The deal closed on June 13, 2017, his daughter Olivia's 25th birthday. Fuller Acres will now be farmland forever. "It was worth it even without the money to see it stay in farming," Douglas says. "I think the farmers who sold my land to me would be happy I did it."
Now it's his daughter Olivia's turn to farm with her partner, Thomas, who has worked on the farm since the two were in high school. The couple plans to be the next generation to farm the land, with ideas to diversify into other types of livestock and crops that thrive on the land's natural offerings. "I'm excited to find synergies that allow Thomas and me to explore new projects on the farm while helping my dad continue to do what he loves," Olivia says. "We're young and we're still figuring things out, but it's comforting to know that the land will always be here for us, and for many farmers to come."
Funding for this project was provided by New York State through the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program and administered by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
"When I was a teenager, there were 15 other dairy farms in this valley. Now we're one of two that remain." – Douglas Fuller