The Orange County Land Trust and the owners of Willow Hill Farm have finalized a conservation easement resulting in the protection of 152 acres of farmland in the Town of Montgomery. OCLT’s purchase of the conservation easement, which was funded by a NYS Farmland Protection Implementation Grant through the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets; ensures the land remains viable and reserved for continued agricultural use by preventing the conversion of the property to non-farm uses. More than 50% of the farmland consists of prime agricultural soils with an additional 19% consisting of soils of statewide importance, as defined by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. The conservation easement also protects the water quality of the Wallkill River by preserving a floodplain forest along its banks. In addition, the property was identified in Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Plan as a “high” priority farm. The property is visible from both Interstate 84 and NYS Route 211.
Jim Delaune, Acting Executive Director of the Orange County Land Trust, said: “Maintaining a critical mass of farmland is key to the long-term viability of agriculture in Orange County. We applaud Willow Hill Farm for partnering with OCLT on this project and also wish to thank Commissioner Richard Ball and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets for providing the necessary funding to make this project possible.”
In a statement provided by the farm’s owners, Annette Mohr and Denise Dahms discuss the significance of this project:
“We have owned and operated Willow Hill Farm as an equestrian facility, for the last 27 years. It is our home and the home of all of our beloved horses and ponies, without whom this business could never have existed.
After turning down numerous offers to develop this industrially zoned land for a distribution center, we can rest assured that these 152 glorious, God given acres, overlooking 3/4 of a mile of the Wallkill River, will now be preserved in perpetuity as prime agricultural land, never to be razed for development or touched by a bulldozer.
As stewards of this land, we are very grateful to Orange County Land Trust for facilitating this grant from NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.
We feel strongly that it is so very important to preserve and protect the farmland in our county and state and to continue to foster the farming tradition in our area, both from a historic perspective, as well as for its aesthetic value and beneficial impact upon our environment. We are very proud that these treasured lands will serve as the gateway to Montgomery in perpetuity, and thank OCLT and NYS for giving us this opportunity.”
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets administers the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, the funding for which is allocated from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).