SCHODACK, N.Y. — The Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA) and Scenic Hudson are pleased to announce the permanent protection of the 555-acre GEM Farms in the Town of Schodack for agricultural use.
GEM Farms is owned and operated by three generations of the Mesick family. The 184-acre home farm has been in the Mesick family for 10 generations, with a portion of the farm in continuous ownership since 1791. This diversified operation raises buffalo, beef, hay, soybeans and vegetables. Products from GEM Farms are sold through regional Hannaford stores, farm stands, online and at specialty stores in New York City.
The farm is situated in the western portion of the Town of Schodack near the I-90 and Route 9 corridor. Rather than selling their land for residential development, the Mesicks chose instead to permanently conserve it for farming and the production of food.
According to a study prepared by Cornell University, each acre of New York’s farmland provides an average of 1,000 meals per year. If left unprotected, this 555-acre farm would be a prime candidate for a 400-home development. Instead, now that it is protected, it will remain undeveloped and available to produce food our region relies on, FOREVER.
“As the ninth-generation farmer, I don’t want to be the one to put houses on this land,” explained Dave Mesick. “Once its houses, it doesn’t ever go back. It gives me great satisfaction knowing the land is conserved and that down the road someone will always have an opportunity to farm it. You can’t put a price on that!”
ASA was awarded a grant through New York State’s Farmland Protection Program to protect the land from development and keep it in agricultural use in perpetuity. Scenic Hudson partnered with ASA to help structure the project and provided the 25% funding match from its Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment. The State grant is funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The farmland protection program is a valuable initiative, protecting our farms of all sizes from development so generations of New Yorkers can enjoy the fresh, locally-grown and raised food they produce. This grant helps preserve GEM Farms and allows this family farm to continue production and retain its farmland for our future New York farmers.
“ASA is thrilled to be partnering with the Mesick family, Scenic Hudson, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and Rensselaer County to protect this “GEM” of a farm in the southernmost part of the county so that it can always be available to grow food for the Capital District. We applaud Governor Cuomo and New York State for having such a positive impact on our food system and local agricultural economies. We also want to thank Scenic Hudson and our community of supporters who came together to make this project happen” said ASA Executive Director Teri Ptacek.
“We applaud the Mesick family for making this commitment to keeping their 10-generation farm intact and available for farming forever,” said Scenic Hudson Land Trust Executive Director Steve Rosenberg. “We so appreciate our partnership with ASA and the New York State Farmland Protection Program. Many thanks to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Richard Ball for their leadership in farmland protection, and the staff of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for making this important accomplishment happen.”
GEM Farms was a protection priority of Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan (www.scenichudson.org/foodshedplan), a data-driven blueprint for ramping up collaborative farmland-protection efforts to create a secure source of fresh, local food for the Hudson Valley and New York City. Complementing the success of this project was the protection of 138 acres of Dutch Hollow dairy farm property adjacent to GEM Farms completed just two weeks prior by Columbia Land Conservancy and Scenic Hudson with funding from New York State’s Farmland Protection Program and the USDA’s Agricultural Land Easement Program.
“GEM Farms is one of the largest and oldest farms in Rensselaer County, and known by residents in the area for their large herd of buffalo and great selection of homegrown crops and produce. All of us in Rensselaer County are so proud of our agricultural heritage, and equally proud to join with ASA and other partners to protect GEM Farms and other farm and open space properties,” said County Executive Steve McLaughlin.
“Rensselaer County has a rich history in farming, and our farms are an important part of our communities and our landscape. This part of our County has some of the highest quality soils and it is very satisfying to see that it will be preserved forever for agricultural use”, said Ken Herrington, Rensselaer County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board Chair.
“American Farmland Trust congratulates the Mesick family, ASA, Scenic Hudson and the State of New York for coming together to protect this farm for future generations,” said Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for American Farmland Trust. “These projects strengthen New York’s farm economy, contribute to the state’s efforts to combat climate change, and ensure that food can be grown locally for generations to come. No Farms, No Food!”
With the closing of this project, the Agricultural Stewardship Association has helped more than 125 farm families conserve 20,042 acres in Washington and Rensselaer counties. To reach its goal of protecting 24,000 acres by 2020, ASA has launched the last phase of its Forever Farmland Campaign to raise the remaining $535,000 from the community. ASA was founded in 1990 by farmers to conserve local farmland and ensure a future for farming in our region. For more information about ASA’s work, visit www.agstewardship.org.
Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers. www.scenichudson.org
–Agricultural Stewardship Association
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