Hudson Valley Real Estate Eating Up Our Produce

North of New York City, a battle is brewing between real estate and family farming.  A boom driven by City residents seeking refuge in greener, quieter locales is displacing our local food system.  Since 1982, real estate developments have transformed more than 471,000 acres of New York farmland, according to the American Farmland Trust data.

For example, Elizabeth Ryan’s Stone Ridge Orchard is not for sale–but she’s been offered millions for the land.  And her lenders think “it’s a bad business decision, not to cash out land for houses.” Ms. Ryan has support, though; a group of New York City lawmakers has teamed up with another preservation group, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, to create a plan to preserve the region’s existing food system. As part of the initiative, lawmakers are seeking for the first time to set aside money in the municipal budget for the preservation of farmland in the Hudson Valley. “The risk to farmland is a risk to healthy food for New York City residents,” Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, Democrat of Manhattan, said.

New York City is plighted by urban food desserts, and farmers markets are helping to alleviate that problem.  As such, Mr. Garodnick has proposed spending $50 for a conservation easement program that would pay farmers the development value of their land and impose a deed restriction to permanently protect the property from development.

“This modest, but visionary, strategic investment will make the city a national model of how to create a more equitable and secure regional food system,” said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of the Scenic Hudson Valley Land Trust.  To read more about the proposal, including May De Blasio’s position and the concerns of a declining farmer population, click here.

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