The Watershed Agricultural Council’s (WAC) Conservation Easement Program has much to celebrate and reflect as this decade ends and the year 2020 is near. Most noteworthy is this year’s achievement of 30,000 acres conserved “to protect the water quality of the New York City Watersheds, and to protect agricultural and forestry lands by limiting the form, location and density of development.” And while the quoted conservation purpose is certainly the main objective of all easement projects, the end goal is often times not the only outcome worthy of praise. The WAC staff fosters a relationship with landowners and through the conservation easement creates a legacy, respecting that property’s past while partnering as future stewards of the land.
On either side of Streeter Hill in Fleischmanns, NY,on the dead-end Moseman Road, are the fields of Three Oaks Farm. It is easy to appreciate the land’s history, utility and potential considering the property’s quintessential stone walls, historic farmhouse, and breath-taking panorama. One can envision the past (Jersey herds and milk cans loaded onto old pickups in the morning light) and ponder the farm’s resurgence (fields freshly cut, young-stock grazing, and a fresh blueberry patch) all within the same moment. On July 10, 2019, the WAC and the DiBenedetto family closed the conservation easement and forever secured those 161 acres for responsible agriculture.
Jim Moseman, whose parents purchased the farm in 1923 from the Streeter family, originally began the process. Unfortunately, he passed before seeing the project to fruition. To quote Jim’s niece, “Jim was truly a steward of his farm. He knew better than most the joys and vicissitudes of life on a small farm. His most ardent wish concerning his estate was that the land remain intact and undeveloped, preferably under agriculture. His family is happy to see Jim’s desire being fulfilled under the stewardship of their local friends and neighbors, the DiBenedettos.”
Program staff look forward to all future monitoring visits and the ability to watch this farm flourish. The WAC’s Deed of Conservation Easement is truly a “working lands” easement; not only intended to conserve but also to encourage and support farm operations. Additionally, the WAC’s ability to purchase development rights, allows for and in this case facilitated, the transition of farm from one family to the next. With the dairy industry in decline, it is humbling for the Easement Program to be a part of this particular success story.
Perhaps that is the often downplayed outcome of the WAC’s easement projects—the connection between people, healthy lands and waters, and the local economy. The project at Moseman Road hit all the marks: water quality protection, limitation of development, the preservation of a family farm; an all-around positive experience. A win for our community and those downstream.
“Jim was truly a steward of his farm. He knew better than most the joys and vicissitudes of life on a small farm. His most ardent wish concerning his estate was that the land remain intact and undeveloped, preferably under agriculture. His family is happy to see Jim’s desire being fulfilled under the stewardship of their local friends and neighbors, the DiBenedettos.”
Read the 2019 Annual Report here.