The Watershed Agricultural Council provides a full-service staff in Yorktown Heights to serve the needs of agriculture and forestry landowners in the Croton Watershed. This watershed served as New York City’s original upstate water supply and remains home to 12 reservoirs and 3 controlled lakes and covers 375 square miles. A century ago, dairy farms and large crop operations were common in the Croton Watershed, which includes northern Westchester, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties. The East of Hudson Program team is ready to work with landowners in addressing potential pollution concerns in a strictly confidential manner.

Today, intense residential and commercial development has relegated farmland to just 10% of the region’s land base. The area, however, is home to numerous horse boarding and training facilities, as well as plant nurseries, greenhouses, apple orchards and many small diversified vegetable and livestock farms that address the region’s increasing demand for fresh and locally produced farm products. Many crop farms offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, where shares are sold to area residents prior to the growing season. This model helps cover farmer expenses associated with preparing for next year’s crops. In return, the CSA member receives regular shares of vegetables throughout the growing season. Other farms are agritourism destinations that offer farmstands or pick-your-own apples or vegetables, which draw thousands from surrounding urban and suburban areas.

Every farm regardless of the type of operation or management style can create water quality concerns that require distinct evaluation methods and planning tools in order to meet watershed protection goals of preventing agricultural pollution. The Council’s East of Hudson planning team meets with qualified farm owners in the Croton Watershed to identify and assess potential risks to the water supply. Working with the individual landowner, the team reviews the farm’s needs. Technical assistance designing a comprehensive Whole Farm Plan is then implemented by professional contractors. This Plan takes into account the farm’s management style and existing facilities so that all conservation practices reduce agricultural pollution while helping to sustain the farm’s economic health.

Landowner participation in this program is voluntary. Eligibility is determined according to New York State’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) priority ranking system. To take the first step in participating with the Council,download the PDFwhich you may fill out on your computer or by hand, and submit according to the instructions on page 2 of the form.