$390K will help protect Al Lansing’s farm for future generations

— Photo from Mark King
Lush landscape: The Lansings provide other farms with seedlings and farmers’ markets with produce. They also sell products, like cheese, maple syrup, and olive oil, from other local farmers.

ALBANY COUNTY — Colonel John V. A. Lansing settled in the Lisha Kill area in 1791 and farmed hundreds of acres. Over the years and through the generations, just 20 acres remain in the midst of heavy suburban development.

Now a ninth generation of Lansings wants to continue to farm the land, and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is hoping the public will help them do that.

The conservancy has gotten $389,710 to permanently protect Al Lansing’s farm, operated as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, on Lisha Kill Road in Colonie.

“This isn’t a done deal,” said Mark King, the conservancy’s executive director.  “We have to raise $150,000 in a local match … We have two years to raise the funds. We’re confident we can do it.”

The grant, through the state’s Farmland Protection program, is part of $35 million awarded to 40 farms across 19 counties to protect 13,000 acres of agricultural land throughout New York.

The conservancy has had farmland preservation as a priority for a long time, King said, beginning in 2003 when it helped with purchase of development rights for Indian Ladder Farms in New Scotland.

“That has been a great success,” said King.

The century-old Indian Ladder has been in the Ten Eyck family for generations. What was once a dairy became an apple orchard and is now a tourist destination with a restaurant as well as a cidery and brewery.

The farm, King noted, is also part of a protected corridor, which involves most of the land between Indian Ladder Farms and Thacher State Park, including the Black Creek Marsh and the Tygert Road Marsh.

A new easement is in the works, King said, for the Heldeberg Workshop land, which will be protected as part of the corridor, at the foot of the Helderberg escarpment.

The Lansing farm

While protecting corridors is important, King said, protecting the Lansing farm achieves a different goal. “People need to have access to open spaces wherever they are,” he said.

King went on, “The farm is in a really heavily developed neighborhood; it’s one of the few open spots left.”

The Lansings’ 20 acres on Lisha Kill Road in Colonie contains 95 percent prime soils and 1 percent statewide important soils, according to the governor’s office. “Colonie had a lot of really quality farmland,” said King, with rich soils and good drainage. “Now it’s down to the last bits.”

This project will enable the Lansing family to transfer ownership to the next generation and it will also ensure long-term affordability to future farmers by incorporating a pre-emptive purchase right.

This is the first time the awarded funds have allowed for the use of preemptive purchase rights, which encourage agricultural land to remain in active production and require that it be sold to other farmers at its agricultural value.

Equity Trust and Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy will contribute a total of $130,500 toward the project, according to the governor’s office.

The ninth generation of the Lansing family farming the land is committed to preserving it for farming in perpetuity, King said. All four of Al Lansing’s children — Patrick, Jessica, Sabrina, and Albert — currently work on the farm.

“It’s a very productive farm,” said King, noting that the Lansings grow  20 kinds of vegetables, seven kinds of fruits, a wide variety of herbs and flowers, and also have a big blueberry patch. The farm brings in an annual $110,000 in sales.

The Lansings received a Natural Resources Conservation Service grant from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2018 to add a seventh greenhouse. Their farm employs six people, for greenhouse, retail, and field work.

Over 80 CSA members receive shares per week for 21 weeks, which adds up to over 2,000 pounds of produce.

The Lansings provide other farms with seedlings and farmers’ markets with produce. They also sell products, like cheese, maple syrup, and olive oil, from other local farmers.

“They’ve recently started Field Notes NY, serving family-style farm-to-table meals,” said King.

“A farm like this keeps local food accessible to people,” King concluded. “So people understand food does come from the land.”

The grant program is funded through the New York’s Environmental Protection Fund in the state budget. More than $283 million has been awarded to farmland projection projects since 1996 and nearly 289 projects have protected more than 73,000 acres of farmland in New York State.

In the Capital Region, $7.4 million was awarded for 15 projects totaling 3,492 acres.

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