The Transition of Farming in the NYC Watershed

The Transition of Farming in the NYC Watershed

We understand that farming is dynamic and sometimes what worked in the past isn’t always what will work in the future for agricultural businesses. As some farms begin to transition into different operations, the WAC is here as a resource to help with that transition.

Many farms in the area are transitioning to the next generation: the Moodys, DiBenedettos, Hillreigels, Deysenroths, Hanselmans and Holdridges to name a few. Each of these farms are remaining in dairy production, but adding their own twist of diversification. They have all researched expanding their markets and have come up with solutions that will best fit their operation and capacity. Take a look at the Hanselman family, Barb has a thriving pie and catering business known at ‘The Farmers’ Wife,’ while Seth grows some of the best sweet corn and tomatoes around which can be found in stands all over the county. The Deysenroth family has expanded their Gouda cheese operation over the years and are now processing cheese in their new on-site facility. The Holdridge family has added a new farmstand featuring local products, Meghan Moody Potter and her husband Joe have added a beef herd, Donn Hillreigel has converted to organic, and the DiBenedetto’s have expanded their retail milk markets. All of these farms are working with the next generation to continue doing what they love.

Other farms in the region are experimenting with various forms of agritourism – farm tours, glamping and farm stays. There is an increased interest in the story of where consumers get their food, and the Schmid and Marsiglio families are tapping into that interest by offering interactive farm stays. Other farms have decided to try raising beef cows, and Delaware County is now boasts the second largest number of beef animals in the state!

As some traditional dairies transition to the next generation, others retire and a new form of farming emerges on the land. An increase of high-quality vegetable operations have emerged. Tianna Kennedy, Eleanor Blakselee and Richard Giles are all working in the region offering a mix of CSA’s, retail, restaurant and regional hub production. Eleanor and her husband Patrick recently purchased a retired dairy farm that has a WAC Conservation Easement on it. They are working hard to till the fields and transition them from crop production to organic vegetables.

The WAC is not only supporting farm transition, but forest ownership land transi-tion as well. Transitioning the land to the next generation of dedicated forest owners is just as important to maintain a stable Catskill forest. Avoiding parcelization while responsibly utilizing a woodlot’s resources has been a goal of WAC’s Forestry Program since inception.

Transition is often looked at as something that is hard to do. There is change and uncertainty as we try something new or different than what we are accustomed to. While change can be risky, it is inevitable, and it can also be the way to save the farm and continue a way of life. Whatever kind of transition you might be considering, the WAC may be able to help. For watershed farms and forest lands our Easement Program staff can help you consider whether a WAC Easement would be an aid in a farm or forest land transition. Our Economic Viability Program has a micro-grant program that can help fund transition fundamentals from business plans, training, website development and other marketing tools. Contact us to find out how we can assist in your transition plans. We want to see this land and its people continue to prosper for many years to come!—Sally Fairbairn, Council Chair

Read the 2019 Annual Report here.