On Friday, March 28, an eight-year marathon effort to preserve a scenic 74-acre family farm on Sand Hill Road in Gardiner reached the finish line at last, as the Open Space Institute (OSI) closed on the acquisition of a conservation easement on the Hess Farm. The easement prevents future development and ensures that the property will remain in agriculture.
“This is a town with deep agricultural roots, and a healthy, diverse and growing farming community. Protecting our long-established farmland is key,” said town supervisor Carl Zatz in a press release. He characterized the campaign to protect the Hess Farm as “truly a community effort, led by Marc Moran and volunteers serving on the town’s Open Space Commission and countless other local volunteers and contributors. We are grateful to the federal government and to several foundations for their generous financial support.”
The US Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service awarded OSI a Farm and Ranchland Protection Program grant for $187,500, and OSI and the Town of Gardiner committed to raising the remaining $243,750. Aggregate individual donations of $112,500, including a $10,000 lead gift from Jim and Mary Ottaway, supplied a full 25 percent of the $431,250 price of the easement. The 1772 Foundation and the Gackstatter Family Foundation both made $25,000 grants to fund the project. The Anderson-Rogers Foundation pledged $5,000, and the A & J Foundation contributed $1,000.
“Due to the federal Department of Agriculture and several private foundations that pledged their support as well, the Hess Farm was protected without spending a single taxpayer dollar,” noted OSI vice president and general counsel Bob Anderberg. “We are indebted to the Open Space Institute for its technical assistance and financial support of this project. OSI is unwavering in its work to strengthen local farms in Gardiner and this entire region,” said Zatz.
Announcing the closing at the Gardiner Town Board meeting on Tuesday, April 1, Zatz noted that the campaign to protect this tract of farmland had spanned the terms of three supervisors, including Marc Moran and Joe Katz as well as his own previous term. He gave a great deal of the credit for its success to Town Board member Warren Wiegand, who he said had sparked the effort in 2006 while a member of the Gardiner’s Open Space Committee and shepherded it through the long fundraising process.
Wiegand and fellow Town Board member Mike Reynolds both noted that at the closing, Anderberg had expressed active interest in pursuing similar future collaborations with the town to preserve farmland. “OSI loves working with Gardiner. If you guys come up with other properties, let us know,” Wiegand quoted Anderberg as saying.
The Hess Farm is the fourth farm that OSI has protected so far in the Town of Gardiner, having also preserved the 65-acre Phillies Bridge Farm, the 120-acre Kiernan Farm and the 140-acre Mercaldi Farm. Currently, the Hess operation produces feed hay and shelled corn for local farms raising horses, cattle and livestock as well as free-range eggs for local purchase. Plans are afoot (or perhaps we should say “on the hoof”) to introduce locally grown beef, which has become a Gardiner-area specialty in recent years.
Wiegand noted that the Hess family had reserved several buildings on the property for their private residential use in perpetuity as part of the land preservation deal.