Spanning 60 acres of fields and woodlands in Charlton, Featherbed Lane Farm was established in 2015. Farmer Tim Biello sells his fresh produce and eggs through community supported agriculture memberships, through his onsite farmstand and through delivery to area chefs. In an old-fashioned twist, the farm is powered entirely by his draft horses, named Duke and Bear.
In order to get started with a farm Tim spent years apprenticing on other farms, developing his business plan, attending workshops, networking with the agricultural community and searching for land. In 2014 Biello approached Kevin Egolf, Manager of the Local Farms Fund, a community impact farmland investment fund, to see if they could help.
Local Farms Fund was able to purchase the farm in Charlton and agree to a long-term lease with Biello that includes an option to purchase the farm. In order to make the farm more affordable Biello and Egolf approached PLAN for assistance in selling the development rights.
In 2015 PLAN secured funding to purchase the development rights on the land. The purchase of development rights was funded by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Farmland Protection Program and through a grant received by Town of Charlton through Saratoga County’s Open Space and Farmland Protection Program.
PLAN’s executive director Maria Trabka said, “Tim Biello came to PLAN in 2011 for help when he started looking for land to farm. Although it has been a long process to accomplish this milestone, today is really just the first day of forever. With this agreement, Featherbed Lane Farm will always be available to feed future generations, purify water and air, and harbor wildlife.”
Equity Trust, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization committed to keeping land affordable for farmers, contributed funding for an additional protection, called a preemptive purchase right, that will ensure the protected farm remains economically accessible and in the hands of working farmers into the future. Equity Trust Executive Director Jim Oldham said “Keeping farmland affordable for farmers is critical to having a successful agricultural community, and we’re delighted to have achieved just that for this wonderful piece of farmland.”
All of these partnerships came to fruition on Wednesday as the project closed, paperwork was signed and funds exchanged hands.
Kevin Egolf, Manager of Local Farms Fund said “Selling the development rights on Featherbed Lane Farm is an essential part of Tim’s plan that he presented to us almost 5 years ago. We needed to have a funded conservation easement to make the land accessible to a new farmer. This is a huge step towards completing that mission.”
Farmer Tim Biello expressed his gratitude to all of the project partners, saying “It has been great to work with the wide variety of entities supporting this effort. This will be a tremendous boost to my farm business and will help us stay on the farm.”
David Haight, New York State Director for the American Farmland Trust, noted the significance of this project as a model that can be followed to create access for new farmers, saying “This is a milestone today, for Tim Biello and his farm, for Saratoga County and for New York State. Featherbed Lane Farm is a textbook example of an innovative partnership coming together to help a young farmer gain access to land. We need more pioneering projects like this.”
Town of Charlton Councilman Joe Grasso said “The Town Board wishes to congratulate Local Farms Fund for selling the development rights on the farm and agreeing to a perpetual conservation easement. This important step shows their long term commitment to farming, will protect their farmland from future development and helps to protect Charlton’s rural character.”
In the past 12 months Saratoga PLAN has conserved eight farms in Saratoga County, protecting 918 acres. PLAN is expecting to complete 3 more farm protection projects in early 2019 and was recently awarded State Grants to protect 3 additional farms in Saratoga County. Featherbed Lane Farm is the fifth New York farm protected with affordability protections funded through Equity Trust’ s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program in the last year.
PLAN is also conducting agricultural outreach on a variety of topics through 2020, thanks to generous funding from Hudson Valley Farmlink Network and NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. A workshop on Farmland Succession Planning will be held at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on January 29th from 2-4 PM.