ALTAMONT — Over 1,500 people answered in a town-wide survey last year that Kleinke’s Farm in Glenmont was the number one location they wanted to see preserved, which related to how farmland was among the hottest topics in Bethlehem.
It connected to how the town should address the ongoing development-versus-land conservation topic moving forward, especially since it is undergoing a new comprehensive plan update as well. And like the survey, many residents came out to continue the dialogue about land conservation, this time focusing on farmland.
On Thursday, June 13, around a dozen speakers shared their experiences at Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont about conserving their farmland or working to help others to do so.
The event, titled “Meet the People Making Local Conservation Happen: Talks, Tastes, and a Tour! — Conserving Farmland,” began at 6 p.m. and ended one hour longer than anticipated at 9 p.m. It was the second of a two-part local land conservation-related series, the first already having taken place on Feb. 7. That event had focused on the preservation of local forests and preserves, featuring speakers who spoke about those topics.
Both events were noted for drawing huge turnouts, so much that Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said it was “amazing that so many of you folks have come out,” even jokingly observing that there were not enough chairs for everyone. He was joined by New Scotland Town Supervisor Douglas LaGrange who voiced his appreciation that his town and Bethlehem were working together to support this cause. Bethlehem’s Open Space Coordinator Karen Shaw was also given a shout-out for organizing the event.
The speakers who gave speeches about their individual experiences included:
– Peter G. Ten Eyck II, owner of Indian Ladder Farms
– Erica Goodman, state Deputy director of American Farmland Trust
– Renee St. Jacques, assistant director of Public Policy at New York Farm Bureau
– Laurie Ten Eyck, co-manager and farmer at Indian Ladder Farms
– Annie Metzger, co-owner and farmer at Laughing Earth Farm
– Barry Chase, owner and farmer at Chaseholm Farm and Creamery
– Mike Stanton, owner and farmer at Stanton’s Legacy Farms
– Corinne Hansch and Matthew Leon, owners and farmers at Lovin’ Mama Farm
– Isabel Prescott, owner and farmer at Riverview Orchards
– Joanne and Dan Tilley, owners and farmers at Tilldale Farm
– Al Lansing, owner and farmer at Lansing Farm Market and Greenhouses
– Holly Rippon-Butler, Land Access Program Director at National Young Farmers Coalition
Main discussions of the night included the importance of giving landowners more options to work with conservation organizations or their respective town governments to conserve their lands as opposed to just selling them to developers; how several local farms have dated back to the early 20th century and have remained successful despite the passage of time; the trend of declining farmland volume in the country in recent years; the challenge of sustaining farms as owners continue aging and the concern that no one would want to take over in the future; and the potential for attracting younger and/or interested people to go into farming.
The audience, in addition to learning from the speakers, had a chance to enjoy farm-to-table food and local craft beverages before and after the event. As the speeches ended by 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. as planned, the initially-planned audience Q&A session from 8 to 8:30 p.m. was canceled in favor of letting interested audience members have some time to individually go up to the speakers if they had any queries.