Even those of us who grow vegetables in our gardens still depend on farmers for most of our food. But that food supply could be constrained if we lose Western New York farmland to housing and other development.
The Western New York Land Conservancy is working to protect local farmland. Earlier this month it announced that the 90-acre Meyer Farm in the Town of Eden is now permanently protected from development and will remain farmland for future generations.
This $244,000 project was made possible thanks to $120,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, which is part of the US Department of Agriculture; $60,000 from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and $4,000 from the Town of Eden.
The farm is home to Dr. Frank and Linda Meyer. They contributed by agreeing to a bargain sale of the development rights that reduced the cost by $60,000.
Dr. Meyer’s great-grandfather purchased the land in the 1800s and it has been in his mother’s family since then. It has long been used for both vegetable production and field crops, though the Meyers don’t personally farm the land.
“I feel strongly that it has been my duty to be the steward who has been responsible for maintaining it as productive farmland and for charting a course for its future,” Dr. Meyer said. “I am pleased that as it passes on to new generations of owners it will be protected from development, and the long history of farming that my ancestors began will continue.”
The Meyer Farm conservation easement will ensure that the farmland remains available for agriculture even as development pressure increases in the surrounding area.
With the purchase of development rights complete and a conservation easement now in place, the Meyer Farm becomes the second farmland property in Eden to be protected by the Land Conservancy, following 2012’s 102-acre Surgenor Farm. The Land Conservancy recently received several large, private donations from Town of Eden residents to expand the farmland protection program there.
Eden has a very long history of working to keep its farms and farmland productive, according to the WNY Land Conservancy.
The town has both an Agricultural Advisory Committee and a Conservation Advisory Committee. The process of developing an Agricultural & Farmland Protection Plan in 2008 and 2009 renewed interest in permanent farmland protection. The Meyer parcel was among the first properties identified as a strong candidate for protection. At that time, the town received a donation of funds designated for farmland protection from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Subsequently, the project was selected for funding from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
“The agricultural community has long hoped the Meyer Farm would be among the first permanently protected parcels in the Town of Eden,” said John Whitney of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Not only is it valuable cropland, but protection of this parcel greatly reduces the likelihood of incompatible residential, commercial or industrial development spreading from the hamlet of Eden northward into the regionally important Eden Valley agricultural area.”
“We believe that this success represents a tipping point for farmland protection in Eden,” said Land Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Smith, “and we hope to protect additional farms in Eden in the years to come.”
Farmland is also protected in other parts of Erie County.
The Western New York Land Conservancy is a not-for-profit land trust that protects more than 5,500 acres of land including working farms, scenic vistas, forested lands, fragile natural ecosystems and lakefront shorelines across the eight counties of Western New York.