The rush to save Hess Farm in Gardiner is officially on. Open space advocates only have until March 31 to raise the $27,000 needed to protect the farmland in perpetuity. But they’re hopeful.
“We’re optimistic. We have five or six weeks to go,” said Warren Wiegand, who is helping to raise money for Hess Farm. “We’re going to get there.”
Hess Farm, at the corner of Sand Hill and Marabac roads, is a 74-acre, working farm right in the heart of the hamlet. Albert Hess, the current owner, raises livestock feed on the property, which has been in his family since the 1920s. The farm itself has been in production since the Civil War.
People who favor open space in Gardiner see preserving that farmland as a key goal.
“It’s an ideal farm to keep. It’s right in the center of town,” said Joe Katz, a former town supervisor who is also raising money to preserve that land. “It’s a good working farm.”
Hess Farm will sell a $450,000 conservation easement on that land. Half of that money is coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a quarter of it from the Open Space Institute and the rest from private donors, including Gackstatter Foundation, Friends of the Shawangunks, the former Save the Ridge group and many others.
Various fundraising efforts throughout last year have brought in $85,000 toward the local match. But now it’s crunch time.
“I think that we’ve raised this much is pretty amazing already,” Katz said.
One aspect that should help matters is the $10,000 that’s waiting in the wings as a matching program. For every dollar Gardinerites raise up to the $10,000, a private donor will match them.
Wiegand said he thought the dollar-for-dollar match has some appeal to potential donors. “Everybody wants their money to work twice as hard,” he said.
Gardiner citizens voted in 2006 for a $1.5 million bond to help purchase open space. However, because that measure only passed by one vote, Town Hall has been reluctant to leverage that funding. Like the Kiernan Farm — Gardiner’s first farm devoted as open space — Hess Farm won’t use the public money. Instead, the local grant match will come from private donations.
Both the Hess and Kiernan properties have been on the Gardiner Open Space Commission’s radar for years. If people raise enough money to preserve Hess Farm, the commission members would essentially need to begin again — soliciting interested land owners to see if they’d want to pursue a development rights or conservation deal.
Donations made to preserve Hess Farm are tax deductible. Contributions can go to Open Space Conservancy, 1350 Broadway, Suite 201, New York, NY 10018. You can also give online at www.osiny.org. Please note on the check or online that the payment is for the “Hess Farm Project.”
To learn more about the farm itself, head to https://www.townofgardiner.org/openspaceminutes.cfm.