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Supporting a start-up in Saratoga County

Duke and Bear

photo credit: Victoria Shelley

This year Tim Biello is launching Featherbed Lane Farm, a unique horse-powered, year-round community supported agriculture enterprise with a mission to provide the Saratoga Springs community with year-round access to the highest quality food and meaningful on-farm experiences. Through this diversified, draft-powered farm business (including a free-choice vegetable CSA and pastured eggs), Tim hopes to earn a healthy and satisfying living, farm and manage the land sustainably, and provide farm fresh food and on-farm public programs to engage and benefit the community.

Tim began farming in 2006 and has five years of farm management experience, focused on vegetable production, egg production, and draft horse systems. He purchased and trained his first team of horses in 2010, but then spent four years facing a challenge common for beginning farmers today: access to affordable land.

During his search for farmland in the Saratoga Springs region, Tim connected with Equity Trust’s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program as well as with the Local Farms Fund (LFF). When Tim found the right property for his future farm operation, a 62-acre farm in Ballston Spa complete with a house and barns, LFF acquired the farm on Tim’s behalf, as he was not able to purchase it on his own. LFF purchased the property in 2015 and is leasing it to Tim with the intention to transfer the farm to farmer ownership.

Tim is working with Equity Trust and Saratoga PLAN, a land trust operating in Saratoga County, to protect the farm permanently and make it more affordable, both for him when he purchases it from LFF, and for future farmers. In May 2016, Saratoga PLAN was awarded funding for an easement through a New York State Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program grant and Saratoga County will provide matching funds. Equity Trust’s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program will simultaneously purchase a permanent affordability restriction, which will be included in the conservation easement to be held by Saratoga PLAN. This will be our first farm protection project in Saratoga County. Once purchased, these protections will lower Tim’s lease fees, and they will lower his option price when he is ready to buy the farm.

Tim currently works with American Farmland Trust, as the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network Coordinator, while he saves money to make it possible for him to purchase the farm. He was able to get on the land and start farming ahead of the easement funding coming in thanks to LFF’s investment, and he will launch his new farm business on a property that he will be able to afford thanks to the easement and the affordability restriction. The grant from Equity Trust will ensure the farm’s long-term affordability and active use for commercial agriculture.