In April, New York farmer Elizabeth Ryan used a loan from Equity Trust’s recently created Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Fund to purchase Stone Ridge Orchard, in Ulster county. This was the first step in an innovative land deal designed to preserve the orchard as a working farm and maintain its affordability to farmers. The purchase removes the risk that the land could be sold for development, providing time to create and raise funds for an easement to permanently protect the scenic 114 acre property.
Equity Trust and Ryan are partnering with Scenic Hudson to develop a conservation easement on the property that will include specific provisions designed to keep it in active agriculture and affordable for future farmers. Equity Trust’s low interest, $1 million bridge loan toward the $1.25 million purchase price will be repaid when Ryan sells the easement which will be held by Scenic Hudson. Funding will come from several organizational partners and other sources: Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute will finance the purchase of development rights while seeking a match from the federal Agricultural Land Easement Program. Meanwhile, a grant from Equity Trust’s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program, together with funds to be raised from Stone Ridge neighbors and customers, will be used to pay the cost of adding permanent farming requirements and affordability restrictions into the easement.
The Stone Ridge Orchard is one of the last viable orchards in New York’s Rondout Valley, in a region of rising land prices and rapidly disappearing agriculture. Owner Ryan is a well-known fruit grower and entrepreneur who, in addition to having leased the Stone Ridge property since 2006, also owns Breezy Hill Orchards and Cider Mill in Dutchess County, NY. Equity Trust is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Ryan and our many project partners to preserve this important resource.