On Saturday, October 8, I attended an art exhibit presented by the Agricultural Stewardship Association titled Landscapes for Landsake, where 50% of art sales benefited farmland conservation. I picked up a flyer about this event while on the Washington County Cheese Tour a few weeks ago, but also, my friend Alyssa McClenning serves on the ASA Board and I was hoping to run into her. I never did see Alyssa but I had a nice chat with the ASA Executive Director, Teri Ptacek, and then sipped a glass of wine while admiring some really beautiful paintings and sculpture.
Beyond the artwork, I was captivated by the barn at Maple Ridge in Coila, NY where the event was held. It was gorgeous – I wanted to wrap it up and take it home!! Our barn is in serious disrepair due to the many many years of neglect. When we bought the place, the whole lower level was filled with trash (much like our backyard was). We are dying to renovate the barn… and all it is going to take is money… show me the money! Our barn needs to be lifted, a new foundation poured, sideboards replaced, a new roof, and some serious detox to remove all the poop from the roosting pigeons on the beams above. It’s gorgeous in there, it’s just not safe to use… for anything right now. But we do dream about the barn as a garage on the lower level, with studio or office space… or a even a bakery/cafe up top.
There used to be another barn across the street – it was in far worse shape than our barn, it was collapsed, in fact, and it was set ablaze by the previous owner & the fire department before the land was sold to the current owners. That barn was part of the original farm, which was something like 1000 acres, of which our house was the original 1860 farmhouse. Over the past 151 years, the property has been subdivided into parcels of various sizes: our parcel is 32.5 acres and we still lease our property to the dairy farmer’s up the hill who hay it and plant feed corn; I believe their working dairy farm is around 239 acres; there is the 60 acre horse farm; another 60 acre parcel that gets hayed; there are a few smaller parcels at around 4 or 5 acres; and then I’m not sure just how big or how far out 1,000 acres stretches.
The ASA’s Mission is to help landowners protect their farmland for future generations… which is obviously a good thing… but had this land and other lands never been subdivided, we, and many of our neighbors and friends in this town would not be the proud owners of such magnificent property. Some growth is good for the tax base, and for business. Cambridge, NY has lost residents since the 2000 Census – we are now at somewhere around 1,700/1,800 residents. There is not much going on downtown because businesses can’t survive without enough customers who can afford to support them. And who is going to want to move all the way out here? People who want to “get away from it all” and own some land, which makes the inconvenience of the location all worth it.
I am not anti- or pro-ASA – they do good work and I am still forming my opinions. If you would like to learn more about the Agricultural Stewardship Association: http://www.agstewardship.org/