POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced Dutchess County has contributed $69,300, through the Partnership for Manageable Growth, for the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement on the 78.5-acre Caora Farm in the Town of North East.
The purchase was a partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM), Scenic Hudson Land Trust and Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC).
The partnership has purchased the development rights (PDR) on the farm to preserve its use for agricultural purposes in perpetuity; the total estimated cost of the acquisition of a conservation easement at Caora Farm is $410,702. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets contributed $284,100; Dutchess Land Conservancy provided $43,350; Scenic Hudson Land Trust contributed $12,371.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Caora Farm is a prime example of what makes Dutchess County such a special place for all who live and visit here. The farmers are focused on economic growth and investment, and our Partnership for Manageable Growth program provides critical assistance, preserving farmlands to ensure agriculture remains a vital economic engine in our county. This process will ensure Dutchess County’s rich farming tradition for years to come.”
The property is home to a woman-owned and operated diversified sheep farm. Kathleen Weathers and Michele Ferraro own and operate Caora Farm and are committed to sustainable, small-scale farming and community engagement.
The farm has been expanding each year at a manageable and sustainable rate, with its wool products sold locally and regionally. The farmers actively seek novel markets for their wool, such as for housing insulation and creating pressed felt products. Caora Farm is also part of the scenic view visible from the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.
Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver, who represents the towns of North East, Stanford, Pine Plains and Milan, and chairs the Dutchess County Legislature’s Public Works and Capital Projects Committee, and a member of the Dutchess County Agricultural Advisory Committee, said, “Preserving farmland has long been a priority for County Executive Molinaro, my legislative colleagues and myself. This investment in the Caora Farm is the most recent embodiment of that commitment. Part of the scenic viewshed along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, Caora Farm is a true treasure, and this conservation easement ensures that it will be protected for generations to come.”
Working sheepdogs are a significant component of the Caora Farm operation; annually, Caora Farm hosts a three-day sheepdog trials competition, which is open to the public at no cost. Through this and other outreach events, Caora Farm remains actively engaged with the community, educating them about agriculture.
Ms. Ferraro and Ms. Weathers said, “We are infinitely pleased that Caora Farm will remain in agriculture in perpetuity. Preserving farmland is one of the greatest things that we can do for future generations. We have both lived and worked in Dutchess County for three decades so it is even more meaningful. This is such a rich and special landscape, embedded in a community that cares. We are delighted.”
This is the fifth of six such transactions, funded through the Partnership for Manageable Growth, the Dutchess County Legislature authorized in March 2016; the Legislature approved two additional projects earlier this year.
Scenic Hudson Land Trust Executive Director Steve Rosenberg said, “Hudson Valley farms give us so much — nourishing food, beautiful working land, rural traditions, jobs and lower taxes. Scenic Hudson thanks the farmers, Michele Ferraro and Kathleen Weathers, for making this commitment to conserve their land. Ensuring the future productive capacity of this farm is critical to the region’s ability to a ramp up efforts to secure sources of fresh, local food for the Hudson Valley and New York City. We’re grateful to New York State, Dutchess County, and the Dutchess Land Conservancy for providing essential support for this project.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Farmland Protection Program has helped keep thousands of acres of prime agricultural land in use for current and future farmers, ensuring the sustainability of our food supply and strength of our industry. Since Governor Cuomo took office, the State has not only reinvigorated the program, but has committed historic funding to this important effort, and it is exciting to see yet another farm permanently protected as a result.”
DLC President Becky Thornton said, “We are so happy to help Michele and Kathleen realize their dream of protecting their working sheep farm. It is extremely gratifying to see another part of the beautiful Harlem Valley protected, ensuring that this ecologically rich area and its farming tradition remain for future generations. We thank our partners, Dutchess County, New York State, and Scenic Hudson, for their work on the project and for recognizing the importance of preserving our area’s agricultural heritage. Woman-owned and operated farms account for only 18 percent of farms in New York State and 33 percent of farm operations in Dutchess County, which makes it especially important to ensure their viability for the future.”