Saving the Family Farm
ASA Project restores hope and secures a homestead
SITTING IN THE front yard of Hoacre Farm on a bright October day, Terry and Mike Hoag are men at ease. Watching Mike’s son wrangle a loose cow back to the barn (“It’s not even my cow,” protests the teenager.), the father and son team share a smile. It’s a scene made that much more heartwarming by the fact that not too long ago, smiles were hard to come by on the family homestead.
Stretching along the edge of the Walloomsac River in the northeast corner of Rensselaer County, the undulating 380-acre property has been home to five generations of Hoags. “For 98 years, my family made a living off a dairy operation on this land,” says Terry. “When I was a kid, we made a go of it with just under a dozen cows. But as time marched on, we had to increase operations. At our largest, we were up to 225 head. That required more cows, more barns, more everything. Well, mostly more money.”
Hard times and hard choices
In the years that followed the 2008 recession, money became even harder to come by. Mike recalls, “Milk prices just kept dropping while fuel and grain prices soared. We shifted to grazing part of the property and started leasing land to help keep things under control, but before we knew it, we were darn near upside-down on everything and couldn’t see a way out.”
In 2016 the Hoags sat in on an informational meeting on land conservation hosted by ASA at the Hoosick Grange. Intrigued, and figuring there was nothing to lose, Terry completed an application.
“Honestly,” says Mike, “I don’t think I even knew Dad filled out the form. Our land is so hilly, I was sure it wouldn’t be of interest to ASA.” When the farm wasn’t selected, they assumed Mike was right.
In early 2017 the family made the heartbreaking decision to sell the cows. “That was a dark day,” recalls Terry. “To know that a family legacy ends with you, well, it was tough. The next step was even harder: contacting a real estate agent so we could get the land on the market.”
An unexpected call changes the course of a family farm
A few months after the sale of the herd, spirits on Hoacre Farm were at an all-time low. But then the phone rang.
“It was Chris Krahling from ASA calling to ask us to apply again,” says Mike. “He explained that the property’s river frontage and position between several other conserved properties made it really appealing to ASA. Just when we thought we were out of options, ASA offered us hope.”
Working with ASA, the Hoags re-applied, completing the necessary forms and financial work. This time, the effort was rewarded.
“I really can’t express the relief the easement has brought to me and my entire family,” says Terry. “I no longer worry about the property taxes or the mortgage. And to know the land that my father, my grandfather, myself and my son all worked with love and sweat for years and years will stay in the family, that’s just pure joy right there.”
While the Hoags don’t intend to rebuild the full dairy operation, they will continue to lease some of the land and barn space, bale hay and produce silage for neighboring farms. Plus, they have every intention of keeping a few cows for the kids and grandkids to raise and show at the annual fair—even if they do manage to break free every now and then.
"Just when we thought we were out of options, ASA offered us hope." - Mike Hoag