The town took a step forward this past week in its effort to permanently preserve Maple Hill Farm, a beef farm located on Ashdown Road.
The process to preserve the 73-acre property, which also has a large-scale maple syrup operation, began last year.
The farm is owned by Kurt and Julie Swartz. Ultimately, the town is seeking to acquire a conservation easement over the farm, a project that will cost a total of $544,900, according to town estimates.
The Swartz family has consistently said that the easement is the most certain way to ensure the family will be able to continue farming operations into the future.
Such legal agreements, typically between landowners and a government agency or land trust, strictly limit for what the land can be used in the future, though landowners retain use of the land and still have the right to sell it.
Any future owners, however, would also be bound by the permanent conservation easement.
Whoever owns the easement is responsible for making sure that the landowners continue to use the property for the specific purpose laid out in the agreement, such as farming.
In return for selling development rights to conservation groups, landowners receive an immediate infusion of cash.
New York state’s Farmland Protection Program provides grants to help land trusts purchase development rights from farmers.
In 2018, the town applied for a state funding via the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. The town was notified that the Maple Hill Farm project had been selected for funding last winter.
“This is the fourth farm the town has been able to preserve,” Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said at the meeting.
Specifically, the town was slated to receive $408,750 from the farmland protection program. Saratoga County will contribute $14,000 to the project, plus an estimated $6,250 of in-kind contributions toward that easement. Clifton Park will allocate $77,100 to the project as well, to come out of its Western Clifton Park Open Space Incentive Zoning Fund.
Last Monday’s resolution at the town board's regularly scheduled meeting, which was approved unanimously and without any comments or questions, was to approve the contract for the funding between the town and the county.
Since 2003, when Clifton Park approved its extensive Open Space Plan, more than 1,600 acres of property have been permanently preserved, and the Maple Hill Farm has consistently been targeted as an area of importance by both the town and the county.