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Keeps on working

Kiernan Farm closes on deal to preserve ranch land

by Mike Townshend
January 27, 2011 03:00 PM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week the Town of Gardiner hosted the closing of the easement on the Kiernan Farm. Pictured are: Marty, Thelma and Keri Kiernan, Gale Foster, Ray Smith, Richard W. Hoyt, Renate Maley, Robert Anderberg, Laura Keslosky, Kathy Hudson, Warren Wiegand, Joe Katz and Rich Koenig. Photo by Lauren Thomas.
Last week the Town of Gardiner hosted the closing of the easement on the Kiernan Farm. Pictured are: Marty, Thelma and Keri Kiernan, Gale Foster, Ray Smith, Richard W. Hoyt, Renate Maley, Robert Anderberg, Laura Keslosky, Kathy Hudson, Warren Wiegand, Joe Katz and Rich Koenig. Photo by Lauren Thomas.
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After years of waiting and negotiating, farmers Marty and Thelma Kiernan celebrated the closing of a deal that will preserve their organic cattle ranch as a working farm in perpetuity. “The Town of Gardiner is really proud to be a part of this,” Supervisor Joe Katz said. “The Gardiner citizens have really stepped up under this effort.” The farmland protection deal purchased the development rights to 132 acres of the farm for $880,000 and it involved several players -- the United States Agricultural Department, the Open Space Institute (OSI), the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, the Gackstatter Foundation and a handful of generous Gardinerites.

The bulk of that money comes from the big players -- the feds and OSI. However, Gardiner taxpayers were meant to pay $50,000 of that total. But with a successful fundraising drive in late 2010, no public money will enter into the fray.

In a special ceremony at Town Hall last week, members of the town government handed over the money to the land trust.

“It’s with great pleasure that I give you this check for $50,000,” Katz said. The supervisor next gave a bottle of champagne to the Kiernans to mark the successful closing.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the farm. In 2009, the Kiernans went for a state farmland protection grant and eventually lost out. The whole process itself has taken a few years.

“We’ve had a tough few years, but I think we’re on track,” Marty Kiernan said last week. While Gardiner has had a split opinion on open space in the past, the town might just be moving towards accepting the idea that working farms should be saved and that farmland is under threat, he added.

“It’s so important that it be done correctly,” the farmer said about future farmland protection deals. “We need to go forward with some other farms in Gardiner.”

At first, when it came to raising that $50,000 local share, the Kiernans had toyed with the idea of donating money themselves. But the ranchers thought it best to help the next farm. “I would like to be involved openly now,” Marty explained.

To that end, the Kiernans have pledged to hold a fundraiser to help pay for the next farm.

By having put ink to paper and finishing the deal, the Town of Gardiner has proven to funding partners like OSI and others that they can bring an open space deal to fruition.

“OSI needs these local partnerships,” said Richard Hoyt, the lawyer for the Kiernan family.

By saving farms like Kiernan Farm, taxpayers in Gardiner end up getting a break in the long run. If the farm was subdivided into housing lots, it would require more demand on the police, more demand on firefighters, more roads to maintain and more kids to send to school.

Supervisor Katz also used the event to remember the late Greg Finger -- the former chair of the town’s Open Space Commission. Deeply involved in helping to set up the Kiernan Farm deal, Finger, 65, passed away in December without seeing the farm become devoted open space. “I know he’s smiling down on us right now,” Katz said.

Deputy Supervisor Warren Wiegand also used the event to memorialize Finger, thanking him for his work to make Kiernan Farm’s preservation a reality.

Wiegand -- also the former Open Space Commission chairman, like Finger -- made sure to thank everyone who donated to the town’s fundraising effort. Behind the scenes, that fundraiser had stalled out and town officials were worried that they wouldn’t come up with the money on time.

A donation from the Gackstatter Foundation added the needed fuel to the fire. “Once that contribution came, it helped out,” he said.

Gackstatter is a small, family-run organization based in northern New Jersey. One of its goals, among many others, is to help preserve farmland and Kiernan Farm presented “the perfect opportunity,” according to the foundation’s Renate Maley.

Bob Anderberg, vice president and general counsel of OSI, said the land trust was glad to help out in Gardiner.

“Overall, we’ve closed something like 30 projects in the Hudson Valley,” Anderberg said. Locally, OSI also helped fund the preservation of New Paltz’s Huguenot Farm. A closing on Kiernan Farm keeps safe the agricultural feel of “one of the most beautiful towns in the area.”

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