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.
Reiss Property


New York City residents Marcia and Charlie Reiss were visiting the track in Saratoga when they saw an ad for a canoe trip outfitter and decided to take a paddle down the Battenkill. They enjoyed it so much they drove back the next day to explore the region's back roads and discovered the home of their dreams for sale on Roberson Road in Shushan. It was a Greek revival built in 1840 with 47 acres of high quality farmland along the Battenkill, which has been in agricultural production since before the Revolutionary War.

Behind the house there is a historic structure that was built in 1770 by Philip Embury, an Irish immigrant who founded the Methodist Church in New York. Embury built the small frame structure with his brother-in-law and their two families shared it, one living upstairs and the other on the ground floor. A horse barn was later attached and Methodist services were held there for a number of years. Embury died in a hayfield in Shushan in 1773 and members of his family, loyal to the Tories, fled to Canada for refuge during the war. Marcia and Charlie say several of Embury's Canadian descendents have stopped by to visit and learn more about their family history.

Both Marcia and Charlie share a passion and appreciation for architecture and history. They met as teenagers and dated long distance while Marcia studied English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Charlie studied architecture at Cooper Union in New York City. They married and attended graduate school together at New York University where Charlie received a Masters in urban planning and Marcia a Masters in English Literature. Charlie served as Deputy Commissioner of Housing in New York City for 23 years creating affordable housing before starting his own business as a real estate development consultant.

Marcia began her writing career as a reporter for the Brooklyn Phoenix, served as governmental affairs director for the New York City Department of Ports and Trade. She taught at Hunter College and Columbia University's graduate School of International and Public Affairs. Marcia has authored eight books about New York City history and architecture, most recently Lost New York (2011) and New York Then and Now (2012), as well as a series of guides to historic Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Charlie and Marcia gave up their digs in the city and moved to Shushan full-time in 2005. They have a son and daughter and two grandchildren who love to come visit and play in the river. Charlie and Marcia decided to protect their historic and agriculturally rich property by donating a conservation easement to ASA in December 2012. Marcia explains, "When we drove down Roberson Road for the first time sixteen years ago, we were struck by the beauty of the open fields and mountains across from the house. We later learned that it contains some of the best farming soil in the region. The land has been this way for centuries and we want to preserve it for generations to come." Charlie and Marcia currently lease their fields along the Battenkill to Skip Clark, a local dairy farmer who has also protected his land with ASA.

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