SARATOGA — The land conservation organization Saratoga PLAN has acquired the development rights on 174 acres of farmland in the town of Saratoga owned by the Hanehan Family Dairy, the town of Saratoga’s largest dairy farm.
The purchase, paid for by a state Department of Agriculture and Markets grant of just over $1 million awarded in 2019, permanently preserves land from non-agricultural development in Saratoga County, perhaps the fastest-growing county in the state, where large tracts of open land tend to attract offers from developers looking to satisfy housing demand.
The deal conserves a 118-acre property on County Route 68 owned by Charlie and Barbara Hanehan, and 57 acres on County Route 67 belonging to Clifford and Kathleen Hanehan. The land is currently used for growing crops, pasture, or as woodland.
Saratoga County has been losing farmland to housing and other development since shortly after World War II, followed a decade later by construction of the Adirondack Northway. The town of Saratoga, located just east of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga Lake, continues to have a predominantly rural landscape — and town leaders want to keep it that way, and supported the preservation deal.
“The demand for additional housing will likely continue and result in the conversion of agricultural lands to residential uses in the Rural District unless there are more effective strategies in place to protect agriculture,” according to the town’s 2019 farmland preservation plan. “Meanwhile the surrounding municipalities — Halfmoon, Ballston, Malta, Stillwater, Moreau, and city of Saratoga Springs — are among the top 25 communities for population growth in New York State since 2010. As these communities run out of buildable land, the pressure on the Town of Saratoga will very likely increase.”
In announcing the rights purchase, PLAN said the Hanehan lands include productive soils, woodlands and wetlands that serve as wildlife habitat, and that the farmland itself acts as a rainwater capture system, replenishing groundwater and preventing flooding. “Additionally, by conserving their farmland, the Hanehans are not only helping to ensure access to local food supply but are also keeping the rural scenery of Saratoga intact,” PLAN’s announcement said.
The Hanehan Family Dairy farms 2,100 acres, milks 700 cows, and raises about 600 young stock. While the operation has grown over the years, its family roots go back more than a century, with the dairy farm now being run by a fifth generation of family members. Twelve family members currently work on the farm or at another Hanehan-owned farm in Mount Upton, Chenango County.
“Our passion and motivation for the preservation of this beautiful property translates to deep roots, love of the land, open space and family legacy,” said Charlie and Barbara Hanehan.
“The Hanehan family has been farming in Saratoga County since the 1800’s,” said Clifford Hanehan, Charlie’s brother and business partner. “The fifth generation is now running the dairy operation. Preserving this valuable land resource will guarantee it stays available for future generations to follow their agricultural legacy.”
The dairy has been named a New York State Dairy of Distinction as well as winning annual milk quality awards. The family also operates a seasonal pumpkin stand.
“PLAN is honored that the Hanehan Family chose to work with us to protect some of their farmland. These projects further the goal of keeping a viable farm industry in the core farming areas of Saratoga County,” said Michael Horn, PLAN’s conservation director.
The state puts millions of dollars annually into farmland preservation across the state, with the goal of maintaining the long-term viability and sustainability of New York’s agricultural industry, where farmers face financial pressures to not only sell their land, but also from low prices for milk and other commodities.
“Agriculture is a critical component of our upstate economy and our farms improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said when the grant was awarded. “They provide fresh and nutritious food and beverages to our communities and are home to some of New York’s most scenic landscapes.”
Saratoga PLAN is a non-profit land trust that seeks to preserve the rural character, natural habitats and scenic beauty of Saratoga County for future generations.