A multigenerational farm on Brace Road in the Ontario County town of Canandaigua is more economically secure now that the Brocklebank family has agreed to provide a conservation easement to the state.
The easement provides Scott and Travis Brocklebank, the father-son duo who operate Brock Acres Farm, with $1.86 million in exchange for agreeing to perpetually keep 701 acres of their land undeveloped except for agricultural purposes. Travis Brocklebank said the pair own about 1,800 acres altogether, but the state’s farmland preservation program has a cap that prevented them from including more land at this time.
Scott Brocklebank said, “My father and grandfathers would be so pleased to know we have taken this step that has given us peace of mind that at least 701 acres will be forever preserved as farmland.” He and his son represent the fifth and six generation of their family to till the land.
State officials, including Agriculture Commission Richard A. Ball, announced the agreement this week at Brock Acres Farm. The easement will be overseen by Finger Lakes Land Trust, a land-preservation organization that manages some 25,000 acres of land in the region including farms, parks and natural areas. The conservation easements include farmland like the Brocklebanks’ and environmentally sensitive areas.
The land trust’s executive director, Andrew Zepp, said, “I commend the Brocklebank family and local officials for their dedication to farming and their steadfast support of land preservation, which sets New York apart from other states and makes us a national leader when it comes to stewardship. Our agricultural landscapes contribute substantially to our economy and our way of life and we’re proud to be a part of preserving them.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this week that the Brock Acres Farm easement puts the total amount of farmland under protection at 75,000 acres, with $85 million committed to that purpose during his administration.
“New York’s agricultural industry is an integral part of our economy, so it is critical that we preserve our farmland and protect this valuable resource from overdevelopment,” Cuomo said.
Travis Brocklebank said the family will put the money they received back into the farm by paying down some debt and buying equipment that can help them plant their crops more quickly in the spring.
“Our window of working the ground in the spring, it keeps getting narrower and narrower. Some equipment needs to be bigger so can cover the ground faster,” he said. Many crops in the area are being planted two weeks or more later than usual – if at all – because of unusually wet and cold conditions earlier in the year.
This has been a particularly rough year for farming, Brocklebank said, because of continually low prices and unusual weather trends.
“We’re getting the same amount per bushel for corn that we have in the last 40 years. Everything else seems to go up but we really can’t set our own prices,” he said.
The Brocklebanks raise corn, wheat, soybeans and hay as cash crops. As the nearby towns of Victor and Farmington continue to be developed for housing, that pressure is being felt further south, too, he said.
Canandaigua Town Manager Doug Finch noted that with the Brocklebanks’ easement, the town now has about 2,000 acres of farmland in close proximity that is protected from further development.
Zepp said four farms in northern Canandaigua now have conservation easements. “One of our goals with our partnership with Canandaigua is not to protect one farm, but to protect a neighborhood of farms,” Zepp said, making the area more viable for farming.
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