Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today announced Dutchess County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth (PMG) Program will provide more than $2.2 million to permanently protect four farms, preserving working agricultural lands for years to come, and assist a community organization in converting the deteriorated former Bennett College property into a new community park.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Dutchess County remains a leader in the protection of farmland and open space, and our Partnership for Manageable Growth allows us to do so – maintaining both our agrarian heritage and our County’s visual splendor for years to come. Through our preservation, these four farms will endure as vital parts of Dutchess County’s agricultural legacy, continuing to contribute to our local economy and the charm that makes our community unique. The convergence of the deteriorating, former Bennett College campus into a public park will revitalize an important historical and cultural site located at the southern gateway to the Village of Millbrook and return it to the public realm for future generations to enjoy.”
The County Planning Board evaluated proposed projects using objective criteria, met with the farmers and landowners at each property and subsequently provided funding recommendations to County Executive Molinaro. The four farm projects are contained within the County’s “Agricultural Priority Areas,” as delineated in the 2015 Dutchess County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, and revitalization of the former Bennett College site has long been a priority for the Millbrook community.
The funded projects are as follows:
The 215-acre Hahn Farm straddles Salt Point Turnpike and Netherwood Road in the Town of Pleasant Valley and has been owned by the Hahn family since 1798. A 100-acre portion of the 215-acre farm will be protected through this award; the Hahn family had previously donated an easement to protect 98 acres of the farm from development. The farm’s livestock operations produce, on average, 60 head of beef cattle, 10 pigs, 80 chickens and 60-80 turkeys per year. The farm’s seasonal agritourism activities/on-farm experiences offer patrons a reminder of the historic agricultural nature of the area, which continues to be a force in our economy today. The Hahn Farm received a Bicentennial Farm Award from New York State in 2012 for being in continuous agricultural operation for more than 200 years.
The Heritage Acres/Fishkill Farm Expansion project property is a 105-acre parcel located south of and across East Hook Road from the Fishkill Farm’s core operation in the Town of East Fishkill. Fishkill Farms was established in 1913 as a diverse farm operation and it now an important anchor of agriculture in southern Dutchess County, welcoming agritourism, and distributing product through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation, its farm store and the local and New York City markets.
Obercreek Farm is located along the eastern banks of the Wappinger Creek, just before its confluence with the Hudson River. The farm property, which consists of approximately 186.5-acres, is owned by individually and collectively by Alexander Reese and his siblings, who are the sixth generation of the Reese family to own and steward these lands. This PMG grant partially funds the purchase of a conservation easement on 144 acres, protecting the property from development, while facilitating the landowners’ desire to sell the property as four smaller farms in the future. The ability to create four smaller farms in such a densely developed area as southern Dutchess County ensures the land will remain viable for agriculture into the future. Obercreek Farm consists of fields of vegetables and fruits, which are certified organic, hay fields and woodlands. The farm has had a CSA operation since 2012, has planted cider apple trees on a portion of the property, and plans to grow hops in the future to support the Obercreek Brewery.
Primrose Hill Farm
The 109-acre Primrose Hill Farm is located in the central-eastern portion of the Town of Clinton and has extensive frontage on Fiddler’s Bridge Road. The historic home, barns and farm fields are highly visible from the scenically designated Fiddler’s Bridge Road and are characteristic of the historic legacy of the Town of Clinton. Primrose Hill Farm supports two agroforestry operations: Woodland Farm Products and a Christmas tree operation. The Woodland Farm Products operation covers 53 acres of the property; the Christmas tree operation covers 13 fenced-in acres, has been in production since 1962, and sells between 350-500 Christmas trees each year. The Christmas tree operation is being expanded by 5 acres and more than 1,000 seedlings were planted in this area in 2021. In 2020, the owners created a fenced-in, half-acre community garden that was made available to community members, and it is primarily used by members of the nearby Pleasant Plains Church to grow foods that supplement their food bank.
Former Bennett College Property
The former Bennet College is located in central Dutchess County, at the gateway to the Village of Millbrook, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and New York State Routes 343 and 82. The 32-acre property is highly visible and has long stood as an iconic symbol as one enters the Village from the south. The Millbrook Community Partnership submitted a PMG application to assist it rejuvenate the property by creating a new public park on the former Bennett campus. In order to help facilitate the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the property for passive recreation and public access, future plans call for the demolition of the existing structures and to work with a landscape architect to design and develop a park that emphasizes the historic and cultural nature of this property for public enjoyment and passive recreation.
County Legislator Joseph D. Cavaccini said, “Preserving both our precious farmland and picturesque open space has never been a greater priority, and I’m thrilled these properties will now remain forever protected. I look forward to preserving similar lands in the future through the Partnership for Manageable Growth to keep agriculture vibrant throughout Dutchess County and continue to offer our residents green spaces that afford one-of-a-kind relaxation and recreational opportunities.”
Created in 1999, the PMG program helps protect important agricultural and open space resources. The program provides a locally funded match for land preservation purchases up to 50 percent of the total project cost. Since its inception, the program has helped to protect 5,313 acres of farmland and open space in Dutchess County, with the protection of an additional 853 acres farmland pending in five projects and an acquisition of an additional 155 acres of pristine open space is also pending.