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Farmland Protection Roundtable Draws Large Crowd to East Aurora | Community Spirit

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Farmland Protection Roundtable Draws Large Crowd to East Aurora
Farmland Protection Roundtable Draws Large Crowd to East Aurora


The Western New York Land Conservancy, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, and the Erie County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board cosponsored a Farmland Protection Roundtable on April 8 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in East Aurora. Nearly 100 people from five counties in Western New York came to investigate the different tools that can be used to protect farmland. 

Since 2007, Erie County has lost over 6,600 acres of farmland and has lost 171 farms. These startling statistics emphasize the need to take action today to protect future generations from additional and irrevocable loss of farmland. Fortunately, there are many ways that municipalities, organizations and individuals can work to discourage this trend from continuing. According to Nancy Smith, executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, over 3,500 acres of land in Western New York have already been permanently protected.

Two representatives from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets came in from Albany to speak at this event. Farmland Protection Specialist John Brennan shared his extensive knowledge of agricultural planning techniques and tools that municipalities and farmers can use to protect their land from threats and to ensure the viability of agriculture as an industry. David Behm, manager of the Farmland Protection Program, informed attendees of the state-funded grant opportunities, including Farmland Protection Implementation Grants that are available to counties, municipalities, soil and water conservation districts, and land trusts.

Representatives from Erie County and the towns of Amherst, Clarence, Eden, Brant, Evans and North Collins were asked to speak on a panel about their farmland protection efforts and successes. Each of these municipalities has implemented an Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan and the panelists offered words of advice on how others might make the most of their planning processes. Rick Gillert, planning director of the Town of Amherst, stressed the importance of considering alternatives for achieving your objectives, while Sandy Brant, planning director of the Town of Evans, said “You need to bring the farmers and the citizens into your process, otherwise you’re only circulating your own ideas.” 

John Whitney, district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in the East Aurora Field Office, informed attendees of Federal Farmland Protection Grant opportunities like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. 

The roundtable concluded with presentations by local farmers on a panel called “Erie County Success Stories: Farming on Protected Lands.” Steve Blabac of Root Down Farm in Clarence, Mel Hedges of Willow Creek Farm in Clarence, and Ryan O’Gorman of the Meyer Farm in Eden shared their inspiring stories with attendees.

For more information about the topics covered at the Farmland Protection Roundtable, please contact the Land Conservancy at (716) 687-1225 or info@wnylc.org

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years. For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call (716) 687-1225 or visit www.wnylc.org.


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