SARATOGA COUNTY – Saratoga PLAN recently announced it has obtained conservation easements for two more farms in Saratoga County, preserving, between them, more than 500 acres of agricultural land from possible development.
The private land conservation organization announced on Friday it had purchased the development rights to 464 acres of the Barber Brothers Dairy Farm in Northumberland, in what is the biggest farm conservation deal the organization has ever done. The development rights were worth $1,755,000, with a state farmland preservation grant paying $1,491,295. The landowner is donating the remaining value.
“It is the biggest grant we have ever gotten, and the biggest farmland project we have done,” said Maria Trabka, PLAN’s executive director. “We also anticipate there will be future phases.”
Earlier last week, PLAN said it completed a conservation deal for an additional 63 acres at the Wm. H. Buckley Farm on Route 50 in Ballston, which occupies a scenic ridge overlooking Ballston Lake.
“We’ve been busy. It’s the culmination of a couple of years of work,” Trabka said.
Barber Brothers farm, which began in 1939 as a small farm run by two brothers selling eggs and offering custom field work, has grown into one of the largest dairy farms in the county, with 1,200 acres and a milking herd of about 650 cows. The land placed under the permanent conservation easement is cropland.
While Northumberland remains one of the most agriculture-intensive towns in Saratoga County, Trabka said land in the town is coming under development pressure.
“Northumberland being adjacent to Wilton and South Glens Falls, there’s pressure coming into the western and northern part of town,” Trabka said.
The Barbers approached PLAN about selling the development rights in 2016. “I don’t want to sit in my rocking chair and look out the window and see something else there,” said Linda Barber, who has lived on the farm nearly 50 years, and now sees her son and grandchildren operating the farm. “I want to look and see my fields and trees.”
Meanwhile, at the Wm. H. Buckley Farm in Ballston, the closing on a 63-acre easement is in addition to the 252 acres conserved under an earlier deal in 2015. It brings the total land conserved at the farm to 315 acres. The new easement is worth $469,000, with the state funding about 70 percent of the funding and property owner and farmer Mark Sacco donating the rest, Trabka said.
Ballston has been among the fastest-growing towns in the county in recent years, and what is now the Buckley Farm was proposed for a massive development 15 years ago. The plans were dropped after a large public outcry. Sacco, who is also a lawyer, bought the farm with his wife in 2013.
Today, Buckley Farm raises beef cattle, heritage breed pigs, chickens, and turkeys, using open pasture and animal diets without hormones or antibiotics. To keep up with the farm’s costs, Sacco has opened a café, smokehouses, butcher shop, event venue, and rental farmhouses and cottages, in an operation he called “a blend of fitting into the environment, getting the land to produce, and growing the enterprise.”
Saratoga PLAN is continuing to expand farmland conservation efforts throughout Saratoga County, with 1,300 acres preserved on nine different farms just since the beginning of 2018, Trabka said. She said PLAN is in the process of finalizing deals for the development rights on five more properties, totaling more than 600 acres, and hopes to seal those deals by year’s end.