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County saves its 50th farm

Publication: The East Hampton Press
  Sep 16, 2008 9:14 AM

Suffolk County last Thursday officially preserved its 50th farm and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy received a Leadership Award from the Long Island Farm Bureau for his preservation efforts.

In presenting the award to Mr. Levy, Suffolk Farm Bureau President Bob Nelson described him as “a true friend of agriculture.”

Mr. Levy commented that “preserving active farms is essential to our agricultural and tourist-based economies on the East End. Additionally, we are maintaining what has been a way of life for generations of East End families.”

The 58-acre Warner nursery property on Sound Avenue in Riverhead was saved as agricultural property on Thursday, September 11, through the county’s Farmland Preservation Program. The Town of Riverhead contributed 30 percent of the $5.2 million price tag.

Preservation was accomplished by the purchase of the “development rights” on the Warner land. The concept of acquiring development rights to keep farmland in agricultural use was a first-in-the-nation procedure that remains at the center of the county’s Farmland Preservation Program. The program was begun in 1977 under the administration of County Executive John V.N. Klein.

Under the system, the owner of agricultural land is paid the difference between the value of the property as farmland and its value if it were developed. In return, the owner signs a contract providing that the land remains in agriculture in perpetuity. The process allows a property owner to realize some of the increased value of his or her asset without having to give up farming.

The procedure has now spread through the nation as a means of saving farmland. Suffolk County, since the program began, has acquired the development rights on 9,334 acres of farmland. East End towns followed by establishing their own farmland preservation programs, funded by bond issues approved by voters.

KARL GROSSMAN

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