Conservation Easements: Farm Transitions – A Cause for Celebration

Conservation Easements: Farm Transitions – A Cause for Celebration

2022 was a time of transition for the Easement Program with the addition of new staff, some familiar faces accepting new roles, and the Easement Committee welcoming new members. Our program has seen an unprecedented amount of second and third generation landowners establishing themselves as new stewards of the land this year. Staff are motivated by the successes of our new landowners, as eased lands staying in production is a critical component of the Watershed Agricultural Council’s (WAC) mission to keep agriculture and forestry economically viable in the NYC Watershed. This year we wish to highlight two young farm families—both share the commonality of purchasing former dairy operations protected by WAC conservation easements, and are continuing the farming legacy.

With greenhouses and other season extension strategies, Berry Brook Farm in Hamden, NY, produces organic vegetables, utilizing about 20 acres of land year-round. The farm is operated by Eleanor Blakeslee-Drain and Patrick Hennebery, who first moved to the area in 2011. By 2019, they purchased their forever farm down the road from their first location, “in large part because [it] had an Agricultural Conservation Easement with the WAC, making the farm more affordable and less desirable to non-farmers who would want to develop the property.” Transitioning the farm involved quite a bit of sweat equity including soil amendments, additional greenhouses, and converting the dairy barn into a wash/ pack and produce storage space. Patrick and Eleanor “are honored to steward their beautiful farm, to keep it in agricultural production, and to provide a sustainable livelihood in agriculture for all who work at Berry Brook Farm.”

Nearby in Delhi, NY, is Platner Brook Farm, a family-owned sheep operation. Dominick and Dorothy Frabizio purchased the farm in May 2021. They employ rotational grazing techniques with their sheep and lamb, and recently added Belted Galloways to the mix with a primary goal of selling direct-to-consumer. In their own words, “We are honored and feel very privileged to be here working at keeping this a thriving farm. Land conservation is important to our family because once it’s gone, it’s hard to get back. Our goal here is to operate in such a manner that is beneficial for our animals, the wildlife and creates/maintains a diverse ecosystem.”

Although periods of transition may have their moments of hardship, they create space for reflection, excitement and opportunity. Program staff remain encouraged by new landowners who are proud easement stewards, and as the year inches toward a close, we are eagerly re-engaging new easement acquisitions. We encourage any potentially eligible landowner interested in protecting the future of farming to give us a call. Read more of the 2022 Annual Report here.

Program Stats:

  • 32,419 Conserved Acres
  • 210 Eased Properties
  • 45 Activity Requests