Saratoga County

Saratoga County to seek grant to protect Foster farm

The county may put $232,300 from its open space fund toward buying the development rights to a No


The county may put $232,300 from its open space fund toward buying the development rights to a Northumberland sheep farm.

The county’s Land Preservation Committee voted Tuesday to put up the money as part of an application for a separate federal grant, to be used for buying the development rights to the 144-acre Foster Sheep Farm.

“It’s a great project,” said committee Chairman Philip C. Barrett, R-Clifton Park, after a committee meeting in Ballston Spa.

Saratoga PLAN, a private non-profit land conservation organization in Saratoga Springs, is applying for a federal grant on behalf of the Foster farm.

The farm, owned by Tom and Carole Foster, is located along the Hudson River in a heavily agricultural part of the county.

PLAN is estimating the total cost of buying the development rights at $481,550. The county would pay $232,300, and PLAN would be asking for federal funding of $216,750 from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

PLAN is pursuing the federal grant because it has become so difficult to secure state agricultural protection grants, given the state’s fiscal cutbacks, officials said.

The landowners have agreed to contribute $24,500 toward a stewardship fund for the land. Still up in the air is who will pay about $8,000 in transaction costs being incurred by PLAN; county officials said they won’t, and the federal grant also won’t cover those costs.

The Fosters raise about 60 sheep for wool and meat at the farm. The couple has hosted farm tours, and they are active in the fiber farming community, with an on-site wool shop.

They are looking to sell the development rights so the land can never be used for a non-agricultural purpose.

The farm has good soils, which is one of the requirements for receiving federal funding, according to an application summary. Its woodlands provide a buffer along the Hudson River, and offer wildlife habitat, the summary also notes.

The Fosters applied under the county’s land conservation program last year, and the application got high rankings. But officials decided that without any other source of funding, the project was too expensive for the county.

This year, PLAN is applying for the federal funding, which would reduce the cost to the county.

Northumberland Supervisor Bill Peck said he supports the project.

Barrett said the $232,300 will come from this year’s $500,000 open space acquisition budget. It will only be spent if the federal grant is secured.

The final appropriation will require approval by the full Board of Supervisors.

Saratoga is just one of two counties in the state to put money every year into open space preservation efforts.

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