Genesee Valley Conservancy Protects Old Acres Farm
Located on the rolling hills between Leicester and Perry, the Smithgall family has protected 1,316 acres of highly productive and scenic farmland with Genesee Valley Conservancy.
Four conservation easements placed on the farm will prevent subdivision and conversion to non-farm uses that would impair and cover the highly productive soils that have sustained the Old Acres Farm for four generations.
Since 1950, the Smithgall family has farmed these lands, first as a small Guernsey farm with chickens and hogs. Today, the farm has a large Holstein herd and grows cash crops.
Parents David and Mindy Smithgall and their son Chris and wife Emily have been pursuing protection options for their farm since 2014.
The Conservation Easements
Designed to allow continued private ownership of the land, the four conservation easements in place allow the Smithgalls to continue to operate their farm, rotate crops, and make agricultural improvements.
In the future, the Smithgalls can pass land on to their heirs or sell their land and the conservation easements will remain in place. All future owners of these lands will also need to follow the conservation easements by keeping this farmland viable for agricultural uses.
Genesee Valley Conservancy, for its part, is now charged with ensuring these easement agreements are upheld. Today, and forever into the future, the Conservancy will work with the owners of these lands to ensure the farmland is available for agricultural use and not covered by development.
The soils protected by this project represent some of the most productive in the State. With 36% classified as USDA Prime soils and another 27% classified as New York State Important Soils, these soils are highly productive.
Letchworth State Park Protections
Just over 2,000 feet from a portion of the farm is Letchworth State Park. This section of the farm is a wetland area that drains into the park, forming the 200 foot Craspey Clay Falls near the high banks recreation area. Special protections were written into the conservation easement for this 19 acre area surrounding to ensure the wetland complex remains intact and water draining through the wetland is cleaned before it enters the creek and flows into Letchworth and the Genesee River.
Old Acres Farm is a commanding part of the view when traveling between Livingston County and Wyoming County on Route 39. Especially when you are headed east, from the higher elevations in Wyoming, driving down the rolling hills into Livingston County, the lands of this farm are a highly prominent part of the view that expands for miles on a clear day.
Over 7 and a quarter miles of road frontage has also been protected as part of this project, providing views of the rural landscape for the thousands that drive by the farm each day.
The First, But Not Last
As the first farmland protection project in the Town of Perry, opportunities to work with other landowners are being pursued. With additional important farmland and natural resources in Perry, Genesee Valley Conservancy hopes to expand on the success of the Smithgall project.
Since this project was selected by the State as a priority, a Wyoming County selection program has been created to help promote farmland protection opportunities to landowners in the area. The program involves public workshops to inform landowners on details of the program and how conservation easements would affect the future of their farm. The program then seeks applications from interested farms and scores the importance of those lands in order to prioritize the highest priority projects for future conservation opportunities.
Partnership Made It Possible
This project was the result of a collaboration between Genesee Valley Conservancy, Wyoming County Board of Supervisors, Wyoming County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, Wyoming County Soil and Water, Town of Perry, Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
This project was also supported by the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, and the Town of Leicester.
Livingston County holds a to similarly informational and selection program to prioritize farmland protection efforts for farms interested in protection opportunities.
So far, the collaborative efforts between Genesee Valley Conservancy and Wyoming and Livingston Counties has resulted in over $14 million invested in protecting over 10,300 acres of some of the States most productive agricultural lands in the Genesee Valley.
This project was supported by the Wyoming and Livingston County Agricultural & Farmland Protection Boards and the Towns of Perry and Leicester. Each of these municipalities recognize that highly productive land is critical to the local economy, maintaining the tax base, and providing for the economic future of the region.
Genesee Valley Conservancy works throughout the Genesee River watershed to protect high quality habitat, open space and farmland and now oversees the protection of 20,691 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 and about each county’s local farmland protection program.