2018 Through Farms and Fields | 35th year of Conservation

August 9, 2018

By Yvette DeBow-Salsedo


Peconic Land Trust Celebrates Suffolk County's Landmark Farmland Preservation Program and the Farmers who Made it Happen.

CUTCHOGUE, NY — The Peconic Land Trust honored farm families who were instrumental in the establishment of Suffolk County’s landmark Farmland Preservation Program at its annual Through Farms & Fields event on Sunday, August 5th. The event was held at Salt Air Farm in Cutchogue where a sold-out crowd celebrated ongoing land conservation efforts on Long Island and its unique and historic East End.

Established in 1974, Suffolk County’s program was the first of its kind to purchase development rights on farmland, an idea that has spread across New York and 25 other states. Initiated by former Suffolk County Executive John V.N. Klein, the program was designed to preserve Long Island’s farms and farmland in the face of rising real estate values, increased estate taxes, and extraordinary development pressures. In 1950, there were 120,000 acres of farmland in production in Suffolk County – by 1974, the acreage had dropped to 60,000 acres.

The families honored include names that are very familiar on Long Island – Corwith, Cross, Halsey, Latham, Reeve, Talmage, Wesnofske, and Wickham. Members of these families shaped the program at its inception and were among the first to protect their land from residential development through the sale of development rights. To date, the County program has protected over 10,000 acres of farmland from development; with the Town, State, and private conservation efforts protecting an additional 10,000-plus. Today, there are about 39,000 acres in Suffolk County of which 18,000 remain unprotected.

“The East End of Long Island retains its unique rural character and vibrant local farm economy through the work of the Peconic Land Trust and public partners like Suffolk County,” President John v.H. Halsey said. “In the last 35 years, the Trust has conserved over 12,000 acres of working farms, natural lands, and historic resources, in concert with landowners, partner organizations, local governments and communities — making sure that Long Island continues to have working farms, clean drinking water, vibrant habitats and trails, shorelines and more that we all can enjoy — the unique natural, agricultural and historic resources that make Long Island the place we all know and love.”

“But our work is never done and always urgent as we strive to protect the land, water, and history of our communities. There continues to be tremendous development pressures on our remaining working farmland and natural lands ... With your help, we work hard every day to find conservation outcomes that work for the community”

President John v.H. Halsey

Founded in 1983, Peconic Land Trust conserves Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage. Since its inception, the nonprofit Trust has worked conscientiously with landowners, communities, municipalities, partner organizations, and donors, to conserve approximately 12,000 acres of land on Long Island. The Trust’s professional staff carries out the necessary research and planning to identify and implement alternatives to outright development. While working to conserve the productive farms, watersheds, woodlands, and beachfront of Long Island, the Trust is also protecting the unique rural heritage and natural resources of the region.

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