Over six years, Equity Trust’s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program had a significant impact on farm preservation in this region of New York State, with many strong partners. The program preserved working farms by ensuring that they:
- Are permanently affordable for farmers;
- Grow food for the region on an ongoing basis; and
- Remain in the hands of farmers.
It complemented and enhanced the farmland protection efforts of the region’s many land trusts by providing technical assistance and funding for incorporating affordability restrictions, known as the Preemptive Purchase Right or PPR, into conservation easements, or for the purchase of land to create shared ownership ground-lease farms.
From its launch in late 2013, extending beyond its official end in 2019 to closings in 2020 and 2021, the program ensured that fourteen farms, totaling 2117 acres, will always be available to working farmers for an affordable price. These farms range in size from 20 to 444 acres, include dairies, pastured meat operations, diversified vegetable production, fruit farms, and more. Located in six counties in the Hudson Valley, these affordable working farms will be stewarded by seven different conservation land trusts. The work to protect these farms engaged other partners as well, including several nonprofits that support farm businesses, social investor groups, and state and federal farmland protection programs.
The impact of the program goes well beyond the benefits it provides to individual farmers and the communities they serve. In July 2018, the Working Farm Protection Act was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after being passed unanimously by the State Assembly and Senate. It makes farm affordability protections of the sort pioneered by Equity Trust eligible for funding under New York’s farmland protection program. The legislation was the result of advocacy by many organizations, spearheaded by the National Young Farmers Coalition, but the success required the example that Equity Trust’s work provides. Our projects demonstrate that the tools are effective. The farmers and conservation partners that have collaborated with us are some of the strongest and most eloquent advocates for preserving farm affordability. New York now joins Massachusetts and Vermont in attempting to ensure that farms protected with public funding remain working farms. We are proud to have contributed to this outcome.