Westchester County will provide $400,000 to Stuart’s Fruit Farm, the latest of $2.94 million raised in public and private funds, to purchase a conservation easement for the 172-acre Granite Springs working farm.
County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced the funding on Friday, which his office described as the final piece of the nearly $3 million effort to preserve the private farm.
The farm has also received $1.84 million from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; $300,000 from the town of Somers; $50,000 from the Westchester Land Trust; $353,175 from the Scenic Hudson Land Trust Inc. and $3,000 from the Somers Land Trust.
“Preserving the health and character of our environment and open spaces is a fundamental function of good government,” Astorino said in a statement. “I am proud to stand with legislators on both sides of the aisle to make sure Stuart’s Farm remains free from development and is able to provide vital economic and educational services for years to come.”
The funds will be used to buy a conservation easement from the Stuart family that will prohibit any future development inconsistent with agricultural purposes. The effort was led by the Westchester Land Trust, which will hold the conservation easement along with the town and county.
The Stuart family will continue to own and operate the farm that dates back to 1828, making it the oldest working farm in the county.
Bob Stuart, owner of the farm, said in a statement that his children, in-laws and grandchildren all work year-round on the farm.
The farm grows apples, peaches and vegetables, while the family also runs a bakery and sells Christmas trees in the winter.
“This is a simple family farm and I love what I do,” said Stuart. “This is an island of the past. There aren’t many family farms left, so it’s important that we hang on to them because once a farm is gone, it doesn’t get replaced, and future generations won’t know what life on a farm is like.”
The county would finance its portion of the easement through bonds, requiring approval from the Board of Legislators. Board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, announced his support for the funding, as did Republican Legislator Francis Corcoran.
Westchester Land Trust President Lori Ensinger said the group expects to close the acquisition within months, pending final administrative approvals from New York state.