Farm Catskills has created a Working Landscape Fund to raise money which will give it the capacity to create sustainable communities in a working landscape. Money placed in this fund will be directed toward three designated accounts:
- funds needed to provide a match toward state conservation grants,
- funds needed to buy an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV) on land that has a conservation easement or will be receiving a conservation easement,
- funds needed to operate as a Community Land Trust by buying land to protect farmland and/or to provide affordable housing or other types of local businesses.
Going Beyond Conservation Easements
Various groups have been working for many years to save farmland. Until fairly recently, the prevailing thought was that conservation easements would protect farmland as farmland. However, a recent documentary produced by Equity Trust, “Farmers and Farmland in the Future; Beyond Conservation Easements” shows that this was not necessarily the case. Although a farmer has a conservation easement on her/his land if s/he chooses to go out of business there is no guarantee that the farm will be sold to another farmer or would be sold within reasonable means of a young farmer. The price that is set on many farms today, even those with conservation easements may be much beyond what a young farmer could afford.
Two methods offer a possible solution to this dilemma. The first adds an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV) stipulation on to the Conservation Easement and the second proposes a Community Land Trust model which rents the farmland to a farmer at a reasonable rate with a long term renewable lease while allowing the farmer to purchase and sell the buildings.