Columbia Land Conservancy



The average age of farmers in New York State is 65 years old.  As this older generation of farmers retires, millions of acres of farmland are expected to change hands over the coming decade. However, the high cost of farmland makes land access difficult for young or beginning farmers looking to start their career, as well as for active farmers looking to expand or diversify their operations. CLC’s work to support agriculture in Columbia County combines farmland conservation tools with access programs to keep our local farms viable and in production.

Purchase of Development Rights In order to protect active farmland and farm operations, CLC applies for grants on behalf of farmers to protect prime farmland, often in collaboration with partner organizations. Purchase of Development Rights grants pay farmers for conserving their land. The farms remain privately owned and operated but will be protected from development for future generations. To date, local farm families in our county have been awarded more than $24 million to conserve their land.

Preemptive Purchase Rights

CLC recognizes that a crucial part of keeping farming valuable in Columbia County is securing affordable access to protected farmland. In recent years, CLC has made use of a new tool, called a Preemptive Purchase right, which guarantees protected farms will remain owned by farmers, and sold at their agricultural value in the future.

The Farmer-Landowner Match Program The Columbia Land Conservancy and Dutchess Land Conservancy’s Farmer-Landowner Match Program connects farmers with landowners and provides them with the resources and support to facilitate the development of fair, secure, and long-term farm leases and farm sales. Successful matches allow farmers to access land while keeping working farms in production. This allows older farmers and non-farming farm landowners to preserve and protect their land, while at the same time making farmland accessible to both beginning and established farmers.

Since its inception, we have facilitated 75 matches, keeping over 3,600 acres of land in active production. CLC and DLC’s Farmer-Landowner Match Program partners with the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network (link) and the New York Farmland for the Next Generation Programs (link) to bring regional and statewide resources to our program participants.

Ground Leases

Agricultural ground leases offer farmers a long-term (i.e. 99 years) lease on land that has been purchased and conserved by a third party. CLC’s first ground lease project is the 200-acre Thompson-Finch Farm in Ancram, NY. This organic you-pick strawberry farm was at risk of being sold for development, but will remain a farm, forever, thanks to the support of more than 300 individuals from our community, and the hard work of our partner organizations Equity Trust, Dutchess Land Conservancy, and Scenic Hudson.

Learn more about CLC’s ground lease with Thompson Finch Farm here.

Reports and Stories

Read about some of our completed farmland access projects on our FARM Stories page.

More information about this topic can be found in our 2018 report Farmland Access in the Hudson Valley: An Analysis of the Farmer-Landowner Match Program. You can also read our companion piece to this report, Farmland Access in the Hudson Valley: Stories of People and Places in Columbia and Dutchess Counties. 

To learn more about CLC’s work around farmland access and the matching program, please contact Terence Duvall at terence.duvall@clctrust.org or 518.392.5252