grant received to help farmland owners

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In late March, Saratoga PLAN was awarded a $50,000 grant from the new Land Trusts Grants program, administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM). In awarding the grant, Commissioner Richard A. Ball noted that some of the goals of the grant include enhancing the inventory of viable farmland in Saratoga County and developing farmland access outreach activities to assist landowners and farmers.

According to American Farmland Trust (AFT), New York State has lost more than 4,000 farms to development since the 1980s, and with the rapid growth of Saratoga County there is tremendous pressure on farmland owners to sell their valuable properties. Saratoga PLAN and partner organizations have been educating the public about the many benefits of supporting local agriculture. Farmland helps provide fresh, nutritious, and affordable food, while also preserving open space, biodiversity, and environmental quality. To date, Saratoga PLAN has conserved 18 farms encompassing nearly 1,800 acres in Saratoga County, and has seven other farmland projects scheduled to close within the next 12 months.

Farmer Joshua Rockwood of West Wind Acres in West Charlton, which specializes in pasture raised meats, said, “Saratoga PLAN is an excellent organization. They are helping landowners to preserve their properties, and helping farmers to be able to keep and farm their properties.”

Saratoga PLAN will utilize this grant and a previous grant of $15,000 received from AFT for a variety of farmland conservation and outreach activities. Educational materials will target landowners identified as owning priority farmlands, which will be carefully identified through an inventory process. Landowners will be contacted through mailings and workshops. The first Conservation Workshops were conducted in March. Participants learned about conservation easements, funding programs for purchase of development rights, and the land conservation process.

Saratoga PLAN Conservation Director Michael Horn added, “Our Conservation Workshops attracted landowners from all over the county who wanted to learn more about the many options available. We have been gratified at the large number of people attending, and we look forward to doing more.”

Individual landowners can schedule confidential meetings with Saratoga PLAN to learn more about the land conservation process, and how it might work for them. PLAN can work with landowners to develop maps and site plan scenarios, and assist them with a listing on Hudson Valley Farmland Finder, when appropriate.

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