Poughkeepsie...Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has submitted a request to the County Legislature to support the County’s acceptance of a $1,175,137.50 award from the State to purchase a conservation easement on the Sunset Ridge Farm in the Town of North East. This amount represents 75% of the funding needed to purchase the development rights on the 213.1-acre dairy farm. The matching request of 25% to the Dutchess County Partnership for Manageable Growth/Open Space and Farmland Protection Program is under consideration by the Dutchess County Planning Board.
County Executive Steinhaus noted, “This is an extremely important agricultural property, that is part of one of the largest blocks of productively viable agricultural land in Dutchess County. The northeastern part of the County has the largest amount of land devoted to agriculture and the Town of North East is a leading farming community in Dutchess County. Acquisition of a conservation easement for Sunset Ridge Farm will help preserve an agricultural critical mass of irreplaceable farmland in the Harlem Valley, and may provide the incentive for further partnerships within this core agricultural area.” Sunset Ridge Farm is a 100 head dairy farm operated by Kevin and Deborah Smith and Greg Smith. The farm markets milk through the Agri-Mark Co-op, sells hay to local horse farms and raises a small number of pigs for local sale.
Sunset Ridge Farm is located within the Coleman Station Historic District, is located close to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, and is within two areas targeted for protection in the New York State Open Space Plan: the Dairy Heartland Region in the Town of North East and the Millerton Sedge Meadows, an ecologically critical land mass.
County Executive Steinhaus added, “The Sunset Ridge Farm application represents one of the key initiatives our Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program, which is to create partnerships in order to leverage funds to protect our scenic and agricultural resources. We appreciate the major grant from the State, which allows the opportunity to protect this extraordinary scenic and agricultural resource.”
The Environmental Protection Fund grant award stemmed from the application of the Dutchess County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Since the establishment of the Matching Grant Program the Dutchess County Planning Board has recommended over $2 million for open space and farmland proposals that would protect 1,348 acres. The Board anticipates an increase in applications as communities commit to local participation. The County Executive has committed $7 million to the program to date, with the goal of protecting at least 10,000 acres of resources over the coming decade.