In the heart of Ancram lies a beautiful 205-acre organic farm known as the Thompson-Finch Farm. A Centennial Farm in operation since 1859, Thompson-Finch is one of the oldest and largest organic fruit and vegetable operations in the northeast. Each year the farm attracts more than nine-thousand customers from around the region to pick strawberries, blueberries, apples, and a variety of vegetables.The farmers, Don and Marnie MacLean, had successfully operated the farm on land leased form Marnie’s family for 38 years, but rising real estate prices and a complicated family transfer were poised to threaten the business. Luckily, Don and Marnie foresaw these challenges, and engaged multiple conservation groups to find a solution that would protect the land, and keep it farmed into the future.The Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) led a community wide effort in partnership with Equity Trust, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and more than 300 community members to raise the $1.5 million cost of saving the farm.
Upon purchasing the farm, CLC protected it from development with a conservation easement and signed a 99-year ground lease with the farmers so they could continue farming the land they love. The ground lease is an innovative tool that allows Don and Marnie to retain and build equity in their business, which they can sell to the next farmers of the land, along with other on farm infrastructure like fencing, barns, and equipment.
This ground lease:
- Protects a farm that serves as a model for successfully balancing productive agriculture with protection of the environment;
- Provides long-term security and continued ownership of farm infrastructure by the farmers and encourages expansion of their farm business;
- Allows for the successful transition of the farm to a new generation of farmers;
- Provides access for a future trail, educational programs, and events to the public;
- Makes use of an innovative approach to farmland preservation that ensures the land will remain in agriculture forever and could serve as a model for future farmland conservation projects; and
- Ensures that the community can continue to enjoy delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables for years to come.