April 4, 2014 — The agricultural fabric of the town of Gardiner, NY was strengthened last week with OSI’s preservation of the scenic 74-acre Hess family farm on Sand Hill Road, at the foot of the Shawangunk Ridge.
I’m pleased to say, however, that this was no run of the mill farmland preservation effort. The Hess farm—one of Gardiner’s most viable—received exceptional community support. Local residents made more than 60 individual contributions, ranging from $25 to $10,000, to help the town raise over $110,000—a quarter of the cost of the conservation easement that now permanently protects the farm from development and ensures it will remain in agriculture.
In addition to the many community donors, The 1772 Foundation, the Gackstatter Family Foundation, the Anderson-Rogers Foundation and the A&J Foundation contributed significantly to the project. We were also assisted by Marc Moran and a very capable crew of volunteers serving on Gardiner’s Open Space Commission. The Open Space Institute is grateful to all of these parties for their help and enthusiasm.
For a town the size of Gardiner, its residents spoke out loudly about its agricultural heritage and we believe they made a major investment in its agricultural future. OSI was able to garner support from the federal Department of Agriculture and the previously mentioned foundations, which ensured that the Hess farm was protected without spending local taxpayer dollars. Just like the support for land we see throughout the Hudson Valley, there was a very real commitment from the town and its residents to keep this land in farming.
Currently, the Hess farm produces feed hay and shelled corn for many neighboring and local farms raising horses, cattle and livestock. The farm also produces free-range eggs for local purchase and partners with local farmers to produce a full range of feed products. There are also plans to introduce locally grown beef, which has become one of the specialties of the Gardiner area.
Aside from the extraordinary community support, this conservation project was important because it furthers OSI’s longstanding conservation efforts in Ulster County’s Rondout and Wallkill valleys. We have protected a total of 4,520 acres of active farmland at a cost of over $15 million in the two valleys. The Hess farm is the 27th farm OSI has protected in the valleys and is our fourth in the town of Gardiner.
The farm lies in close proximity to two other protected areas—the Galeville Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, one of the only two grassland sites in the Hudson Valley large enough to support the entire assemblage of grassland birds, and the Mercaldi farm, also on Sand Hill Road and protected by OSI.
The Open Space Institute is indebted to the residents of Gardiner, not only for bringing this remarkable farmland preservation project to us, but most importantly, for rallying around their own community in an inspiring way. I hope we’ll have the pleasure of working together again in the future.
And I encourage listeners to support local, family owned farms with your business. Nothing speaks louder about keeping local agriculture viable than your consumer dollars.