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Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro has announced Dutchess County has finalized the conservation easement to protect the 170-acre Locust Grove Farm in the Town of Pleasant Valley owned by Mary-Elizabeth Atkins, in partnership with the Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC), Scenic Hudson and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM).
The County contributed $118,000 toward the purchase of the development rights, ensuring the land remains open and available for farming for current and future generations. The Dutchess County Legislature approved funding from the Partnership for Manageable Growth (PMG) Program in March 2016, based on recommendation from the Dutchess County Planning Board.
Total purchase price of the conservation easement was $1,056,410, with the NYSDAM contributing $788,750 and Scenic Hudson providing the balance of the purchase price. DLC was the grant applicant on behalf of the landowners, served as project manager, provided a portion of the closing costs and important in-kind services, and will hold and manage the conservation easement on the farm. The landowners also contributed to the project covering a portion of the closing costs.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Through the Partnership for Manageable Growth, Dutchess County is able to partner with local and state entities to protect active farms that are so crucial to our rich agricultural heritage and continue to play a key role in our county’s economy. Dutchess County recognizes the important role local farms play in our community – positively impacting our health, environment, character and economy – and we are committed to promoting these assets. Locust Grove Farm exemplifies the ideals behind the Partnership for Manageable Growth, and this easement will ensure the farm continues to positively impact Dutchess County for future generations.”
Locust Grove Farm is in the Town of Pleasant Valley, and proudly bears the sign welcoming visitors to the hamlet of Salt Point. The property straddles both sides of Salt Point Turnpike, with a prominent and distinctive red dairy barn right at the roadside, marked by the sign for Hackett Holsteins, and a stone main house located close to the road that was built in 1790. The majority of the property consists of open fields with treed hedgerows separating the meadows. The Little Wappinger Creek runs through the eastern portion of the property and the northwestern portion of the farm is bordered by farmland already under easement and protected lands owned by Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies.
The farm property was originally a portion of the Greater Nine Partners Patent, a land grant made in 1697. An intestacy proceeding awarded the property to John Brown and Charles Brown, father-in-law of the present owner’s great grandfather, William Herrick. The property has been owned since then by the descendants of William Herrick and his daughter, Mary-Elizabeth Herrick Hasbrouck, the present owner being Mary-Elizabeth Atkins, a granddaughter of the late Elizabeth Herrick Hasbrouck of Poughkeepsie and Salt Point.
Since the early 1900’s milk has been the principal crop for the property and has continually operated as a dairy farm. Locust Grove Farm has been leased by the Hackett family since 2009, allowing them to expand the Hackett Holsteins dairy operation, which already operated on nearby property in the Town of Clinton. The Hacketts currently keep some 40 to 50 milking cows and their milk-fed calves on Locust Grove Farm and use the remainder of the fields to grow hay and corn for sale and to feed the cows on both farms. Hackett Holsteins, which has been designated as a Dairy of Distinction by the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program since 2010, on average produces 700,000 pounds of milk per year.
Dutchess County Legislator Don Sagliano said, “The preservation of farmland has been a priority for County Executive Molinaro and the Dutchess County Legislature, and I’m proud we can protect the Locust Grove Farm for generations to come. I applaud County Executive Molinaro, my fellow legislators and our community partners for their commitment to preserving Dutchess County’s agricultural heritage.”
Selling development rights encourages property owners to permanently preserve their land for agriculture, providing important funds to reinvest in farm operations or to transition a farm to the next generation.
Betsy Atkins said, “Locust Grove Farm has been in my family since 1830. I visited the farm regularly as a child and spent my summers there. My three children have continued this tradition as have our grandchildren. While my husband Ronald and I have never been primary managers of farm operations on the property, we share a deep connection to this farm and the agricultural way of life in the Hudson Valley. We have had a long relationship with the Hackett family, are very happy with their operation and presence on the farm, and plan for this relationship to continue long into the future. I am comforted in knowing that, by selling the development rights to the farm, the property will remain open and available for agriculture should there come a time when the property leaves the family ownership.”
“Our sincerest thanks to Betsy and Ron Atkins for protecting their family farm. Preserving Locust Grove Farm is extremely important both to the future of Hackett Holsteins and the dairy industry in Dutchess County and our region. Thanks also to our partners, Dutchess County, Scenic Hudson and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM). Together we have ensured that another piece of our agricultural history remains to fuel our local economy and for future generations to enjoy,” said Becky Thornton, President of Dutchess Land Conservancy.
Created in 1999, the County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth grant program has helped to protect more than 3,500 acres of farmland and open space in Dutchess County. Awards are made after thorough review and ranking by the County's Planning Board. The PMG is designed to assist the County and its municipalities in implementing the recommendations of adopted planning documents, including Directions: The Plan for Dutchess County, the Dutchess County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, Greenway Connections, and the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Plan. The Locust Grove farm is contained within the County’s “Agricultural Priority Areas” as delineated in the 2015 County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan.
Executive Director of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust Steve Rosenberg said, “Scenic Hudson thanks the Atkins family for making this commitment to conserve the fields they’ve farmed for nearly 200 years. People who choose local milk can be assured that the fields that nourish this farm’s cows are protected. Supporting local farming helps feed our communities and strengthens the County’s agricultural economy. We’re grateful to Dutchess County, the Dutchess Land Conservancy and New York State for partnering with us on this project."
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Access to affordable and viable farmland for current and future farmers is key to preserving our landscape, protecting our food supply, and keeping New York’s agricultural economy strong for years to come. The State is proud to support these critical projects through our Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program, and we thank the Dutchess Land Conservancy, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust and Dutchess County for their partnership on this important effort.”