Protecting a GEM in Schodack
In 1793, Fritz Mesick, an immigrant from southern Germany, purchased 100 acres of farmland in South Schodack and started a small dairy farm. Ten generations later, the farm now known as GEM Farms has grown to ~600 acres and has diversified from dairy. Mostly known for their herd of buffalo, the Mesick family also raise beef cattle, hay, soybeans and vegetables, which they sell to Hannaford and farm stands throughout the region.
George Mesick, Jr., the great-great-grandson of Fritz Mesick, purchased the family dairy in 1960 from his father, George E. Mesick, Sr. (the original G.E.M). George and his wife Gerry have two sons and three daughters. Their son Dave is an active partner in the family farming business. Dave’s son, Sam, is also carrying on the tradition, making GEM Farms a 10th generation family farm.
In 1973, when the kids were nearly grown, George and Gerry purchased their first buffalo as a “fun project.” That fun project eventually turned into a small herd and in 2006 GEM Farms made a big transition away from dairy farming to focus on its growing buffalo, beef and vegetable operation. Today, GEM Farms has about 30 buffalo and they sell frozen cuts of meat at their on-farm retail store.
While the buffalo might have been the first big transition, the farm’s surrounding area is going through a transition of its own. Even though the farm is located in an Agricultural District and expected to remain viable and valuable for agriculture well into the future, the Town of Schodack’s Comprehensive Plan targets much of the surrounding area for new business and residential development. With a short commute to Albany and Troy, Schodack is likely next in line to absorb additional growth. "It's not so much keeping development out, but we just want to protect what we have," Sam Mesick said, "because there's already a bit of urban encroachment." Over 200 new homes have been built in Schodack since 2007. Fortunately, the Comprehensive Plan states that a guiding principle is to conserve open space and agricultural land, which made GEM Farms the perfect candidate to protect.
The protection of GEM Farms is a model for success. Partnering with Scenic Hudson made this project possible. For 10 generations the Mesick family has been resilient, adaptable and forward-thinking, and if history has anything to say, the next 10 generations will be too.
“I believe that conserving this land is the right thing to do for our family. What ASA stands for is the bottom line. You can’t make any more land, so you need to protect the land you have now.” – Dave Mesick
Funding for this project was provided by New York State through the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and Scenic Hudson Land Trust.