Farming is an integral part of our central New York communities and NYALT is committed to helping ensure that agriculture remains a viable economic industry for generations to come. Farms provide many benefits to our local communities through access to fresh local products, strengthening the local economy, contributing more to the local tax base than they use in services, and stewarding the land for the next generation.
NYALT works with landowners, at their request, to protect the working landscapes important to Upstate New York’s rural agricultural economy and quality of life. NYALT’s conservation projects conserve high-quality farmland and supporting woodlands, with projects ranging from dairy farms to diversified farming operations. In all cases, the farmers and landowners want to conserve their land for the next generation. They know that once good land is lost to development, it will never come back into agriculture. These farmers are creating a legacy, ensuring that their land will be available for agriculture in the future.
As a land trust, NYALT works with landowners to meet their land conservation goals through the use of voluntary conservation easements. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and the organization that holds the easement. Conservation easements are different from right-of-way easements, or utility easements. In an agricultural conservation easement, the purpose of the easement is to protect the land as a farm for future generations, and to allow flexibility to diversify and change the farming practices as needed. Conservation easements run with the deed to the land, which means that current and all future landowners must abide by the terms. The role of the easement holder is to ensure the terms are upheld.
There is no specific or minimum amount of land required to be part of a conservation easement project with NYALT. However, each conservation easement project must ensure that the agricultural land may be a viable farming operation into the future. This means that each project requires its own specific evaluation and conservation plan.
NYALT’s agricultural conservation easements are drafted so that farming and forestry, as well as compatible uses, are permitted on a protected farm. NYALT’s conservation easements are perpetual—meaning they run with the land through time, as landowners sell or transfer their property.
Agricultural easements are flexible, and allow for a limited number of reserved house sites to be retained as part of the easement for future sale or farm parcels. In addition, NYALT’s easement allows for home-based businesses, agricultural businesses, the production of alternative energy (with some limitations on impervious surfaces), and gas and sub-surface mineral exploration (with performance standards to ensure that the conservation of the property and its soils are respected).
Conservation easements can be donated or sold. NYALT works with landowners interested in conserving their land to determine which conservation options are available to meet the goals of the landowner and the land trust. Often this involves working with local, state and federal partners to secure funding for the project.
Farms We've Protected
Safeguarding our Farmland for Tomorrow
By accepting a conservation easement, NYALT is committing to the long term obligation to ensure that the terms of the easement are upheld. The land trust works directly with our conservation easement landowners helping to answer questions and provide resources for the management of their land. Maintaining good relationships and open communication with conservation easement landowners ensures that we are working as conservation partners. If you have questions about your conservation easement, or would like information, please contact Amy Olney, Farmland Conservation Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
When working with new landowners on conservation easements, NYALT prepares a Baseline Documentation Report with maps and photographs that represent the condition of the property at the time of the recording of the conservation easement and can be used to monitor changes to the land over time. To meet our stewardship responsibilities, NYALT conducts monitoring of its conservation easement properties annually. We give notice to landowners beforehand and always welcome the opportunity to have them walk the property with NYALT’s staff or Board members.
In order to offset the costs of monitoring and enforcing the conservation easements, NYALT requests that our conservation easement donors contribute to the Stewardship Fund. The amount requested is based on the annual costs to monitor and oversee each easement. This Fund helps ensure that the intent of the conservation easement is protected for generations to come.
Why is Protecting Land Important?
NYALT is committed to continuing our outreach to local, state and federal leaders to promote the understanding and appreciation of farmland protection. NYALT works to leverage partnerships with government, communities and industry to encourage continued funding of their important farmland protection programs and to support improvements to the process of acquiring agricultural conservation easements.
Farms are Important
They are critical to New York’s economy, particularly the upstate region. Farms in New York comprise over than 7 million acres of land, and according to the New York State Comptroller, agriculture, agricultural support industries and agricultural processing industries contributed $37.6 billion to the New York State economy in 2011 alone. Yet farms across the state are under threat of development. The American Farmland Trust (AFT) reports more than 80% of fruits and vegetables grown in New York are grown on farms threatened by development. Protecting farmland secures a critical resource for the agricultural industry, and in many ways the state economy, and participating farmers use these funds to build new barns, buy new equipment and strengthen their businesses.
Farmlands are being lost
New York has lost almost half a million acres of farmland in the past 25 years, with these prime lands being transformed into subdivisions, strip malls, and other developments. One estimate by the AFT suggests that rates of farmland loss were as high as 70 acres per day between 1997 and 2002, with more than 4,500 farms being paved over in the last three decades. Part of this trend can be attributed to the aging farm population in New York State; as many as 30% of New York farmers are older than 65, and another 30% are between ages 55 and 64. If aging farmers lack support from younger generations to continue their agricultural operations, there is a much higher chance that their farms will be sold to developers. Protection is the only way to ensure that New York farmlands remain farmlands forever.