Genesee Valley Conservancy Protects Groveland Farmland

Genesee Valley Conservancy Protects Groveland Farmland

iMay 8, 2019

Through conservation easement agreements with Genesee Valley Conservancy, the Phelps family has protected 1,576 acres of productive farmland in the Town of Groveland, Livingston County.

Craig Phelps, with his parents Robert and Christine Phelps, conveyed three conservation easement agreements on their farm to the Conservancy to conserve this highly productive farmland and ensure it remains available for future generations of farmers.

Working Farm

Edgewood Farms was founded in 1868 by Robert Wilson as a sheep and crop farm. The farm has grown many crops over the years and for a time had a dairy herd. The 5th generation of the Phelps family is now working on the farm. Clayton, Craig’s son, joined the farm after graduating from Virginia Tech University with a degree in Dairy Science.

Today, the Phelps family grows dairy forages for a neighboring farm, grain crops, and processing vegetables. These crops include corn silage, alfalfa, corn grain, wheat, snap beans, kidney beans, black beans, and soybeans. Their mix of crops includes conventional agriculture as well as certified organic fields that add diversity to their business.

The soils protected through this project are 26% USDA prime soils and 52% State important soils and consistently produce yields above the Livingston County average.

The farm has increased their efficiencies in recent years by upgrading to GPS enabled tractors, allowing precise placement and rate applications of fertilizers, planting, and harvesting. Conservation tillage practices have also been adopted to reduce soil erosion and fuel consumption on the farm.

In addition to the crops grown by the farm, the family business has expanded in several ways to assist other farms in the region. Edgewood Farms added bulk storage bins, equipment to process high moisture corn, and is a certified dealer for drain tiles, bunk covers, fencing, and GPS systems.

Grab A Glass

Of the many aspects of the Edgewood Farms business, the most unique could be their partnership with Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY. Edgewood Farms grows all of the corn and wheat, and sources and processes the rye, used in Black Button’s suite of products: Four Grain Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Port Finished Bourbon, Collaboration Whiskey, and Apple Pie Moonshine.

Black Button Distilling is the first grain-to-glass distillery to open in New York State since prohibition. In 2012, when Black Button was founded, Edgewood Farms began selling grains (by the sack) to Black Button. As the company began to grow and opened their first tasting room in Rochester in 2014, Edgewood Farms began sending truckloads of grain to the thriving distillery.

In addition to distribution in over 100 stores in New York, Black Button Distilling opened a second tasting room in 2017, located in Buffalo. When you drink Black Button, you are supporting a local protected farm!

Look at the View

Perched on the top of Groveland, the views from this farm in all directions provide a wonderful perspective of the Genesee Valley.
In reverse, the lands of this farm can be seen from far and wide. The fields and forests now protected will remain part of the view appreciated when traveling on I-390 and throughout the southern part of Livingston County.

With 7.5 miles of road frontage, the farm is also a significant part of the rural viewshed enjoyed when traveling local roads in Groveland.

Planning for the Future

The Town of Groveland adopted a Farmland Protection Plan in 2010 to help guide future development and preservation within the Town. The lands of Edgewood Farms were identified in this plan as places for continued agricultural use and permanent protection; directing future development to other areas of the community.

By protecting this farmland, Genesee Valley Conservancy and the Phelps family is helping to implement the Town of Groveland’s plan to remain a vibrant agricultural community.

How it Happened

In 2015, Craig, Robert, and Christine attended the Livingston County farmland protection workshop. This program, a partnership between Genesee Valley Conservancy and the Livingston County Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board, educates farmers on conservation easement options, screens interested farmers to ensure their properties meet the stringent State requirements, and ranks farms according to their productivity and importance as an agricultural asset for the region.

The top few farms from this process are selected to apply to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets farmland protection program, which purchases conservation easements on high quality farmland. Farms approved by the State receive 87.5% of the value of the conservation easement, transaction costs are covered by the program, and the Genesee Valley Conservancy commits to holding the conservation easement forever to ensure the land remains open and available for agricultural production for generations to come.

Landowners participating in this program are required to donate 12.5% of the value of the project.

So far, this collaborative effort between Genesee Valley Conservancy and Livingston County has resulted in over $12 million invested in protecting over 9,200 acres of some of the State's most productive agricultural lands in the Genesee Valley. Agriculture is the number one industry in Livingston County, and protecting the land base is critical to ensure that the agricultural economy continues to thrive.

In Summary

This project was supported by the Livingston County Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board and the Town of Groveland.  Both municipalities recognize that highly productive land is critical to the local economy and the economic future of the region. The Genesee Valley Conservancy works throughout the Genesee River watershed to protect high quality habitat, open space and farmland for the community and now oversees the protection of 19,375 acres.

Farmland owners in Wyoming and Livingston Counties interested in pursuing conservation options for their property should contact the Genesee Valley Conservancy for more information on the NYS Purchase of Development Rights program.



> Map: The Edgewood Farms conservation easements in Groveland (Genesee Valley Conservancy)

> Edgewood Farms sign on Wilson Road in Groveland (Genesee Valley Conservancy)

> Bourbon Whiskey at sunset on the farm (Black Button Distilling)

> Looking at forest land along Teitsworth Road (Genesee Valley Conservancy)

> Looking over a field and forest on Bailey Road out across the Genesee Valley (Genesee Valley Conservancy)

> At closing, Cathy Gardner (president), Dave Bojanowski (project manager), Rob Besanceney (legal council), Christine, Robert, and Craig Phelps (landowners).