Stage Two: Recommendations


Establish a permanent town agricultural committee to oversee the implementation of the Keep Farming initiatives, continue the promotion of agriculture, coordinate citizen involvement, and investigate and coordinate access to private and public funds for ag-related initiatives.

  1. The steering committee (CAP) would consist of 7 +/- town residents.
  2. Work closely with established organizations such as the Glynwood Center, NYS Ag Bureau, Columbia Land Conservancy, Columbia Hudson Partnership, Farm Bureau, etc.
  3. Include specific skills/experience to manage a broad range of initiatives.
  4. At least 3 primary, “first income” farmers from different lines of business
  5. A town board member or someone designated by the town as a liaison to the committee
  6. At least 3 other members with experience in food distribution/retailing, finance/bond issues, farmland preservation, natural resource conservation, and development expertise
  7. Steering committee appointed by town board
  8. General membership open to anyone

Local Food System

Support the development of the infrastructure necessary to provide a sustainable, local healthy food system.

  1. Work with existing vegetable farmers, the Columbia Hudson Partnership, and other local cold storage facilities to provide adequate, cost-effective vegetable cold storage particularly for seasonal storage of root crops, and potentially other vegetables as well.
  2. Work with existing Columbia County organic farmers (e.g. Hawthorne Valley, Little Seed Gardens, Miller’s Crossing, Roxbury and Threshold) and compost processors (e.g. Hudson Valley, Gro-Max, McEnroe) to insure the availability of sufficient bulk compost for organic farming.
  3. Support local food retail and distribution facilities through advertising and community education campaigns, starting with the Keep Farming brochure currently under development (The Essential Guide to Farming in Chatham).
  4. Research and develop the brand for “Chatham Grown” products.

Community Education and Awareness

Work with the town board to establish an identity consistent with the town’s vision for agriculture.

  1. Town to pass a declaration or resolution proclaiming that we are a “farm friendly” community.
  2. Towns to place signs on major entry points to Chatham saying, “Welcome to Chatham: A Farm Friendly Community.”
  3. Coordinate an annual Chatham Farm Tour.
  4. Educate residents about cost of services and the value of having land in farm production.

Local Schools

Work with local schools to help keep agriculture in the minds of our children. Promote farming and ag-related businesses as potential career choices. Enhance awareness of the role of farming in the town and build understanding of the importance of a local food system.

  1. Work with the Board(s) of Education and teachers to establish a curriculum in local schools, using NYS Farm Bureau materials and other instructional materials available.

Landowner/Farmer Partnerships

Facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship between the town’s farmers and the landowners who own 50% of the land in agricultural use.

  1. Develop a “model lease” that farmers and landowners can use to enter into leasing agreements with a basic analysis of the costs involved, the responsibilities of both parties, and a description of the benefits for both parties.
  2. Create a mechanism to help interested farmers and landowners find each other.
  3. Organize a series of education workshops to help landowners better understand the access and improvements to land and flexibility of operations that farmers need in order to make such partnerships work.
  4. Look for creative ways of providing access to land for new farmers, including promoting mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and large landowners.

NYS Ag District Designation

Use this law to protect farms and farming in the town.

  1. Promote agricultural assessments for all eligible landowners.
  2. Promote understanding of the requirements and benefits of being an ag district with farmers, residents, and elected officials.
  3. Town to review policies to insure compliance.
  4. Work with realtors to educate people moving to Chatham about what living in an ag district means.

Feasibility Study

Work with a) an interested commodity dairy farmer; or b) someone interested in entering farming; or c) someone who owns a large tract of land who wishes to convert to agricultural use to secure funding for a feasibility study to determine the best way to convert the active farmland to a different, more economically healthy agricultural operation.

Regional Activism

Act with other towns in the Hudson Valley to promote a regional farming agenda and to enhance the Town’s ability to impact issues such as farm policies, taxes, and enhanced funding for agricultural initiatives. These partnerships will also promote the ability of Chatham farmers to distribute local products more effectively. Leverage the capabilities of local organizations to act in areas of mutual interest, including but not limited to the Glynwood Center, NYS Ag and Markets, Farm Bureau, Columbia Land Conservancy, Columbia Hudson Partnership, Hudson Valley Agriculture Partnership, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and American Farmland Trust.

Taxation Policies

As part of regional activism, place a high priority on getting the State to apply ag exemptions to both land and buildings as long as the land is being farmed. CAP to create a position statement that the town supports and lobbies for.

Land Use Management

The town’s revised plan to include mechanisms that support keeping agricultural land open and available for farming in the future, while respecting the current landowner’s financial position and rights, including:

  1. Identify, map, and incorporate those lands actively used in agriculture into the revised comprehensive plan.
  2. Insure that zoning encourages a diversity of agricultural uses and permits non-farm uses that are consistent with farm operations and meet the requirements of being a NYS agricultural district.
  3. Maintain flexible standards for business operations on farms that help farms remain economically viable.
  4. Use the criteria generated by the Chatham Keep Farming Land Team to inform land use decisions.
  5. Provide training for newly elected officials and planning board members on the many tools available to help towns implement the recommendations and support farming.
  6. Preserve our town’s abundance of clean water by requiring that buildings/subdivisions do not disturb and leave sufficient buffer zones around existing wetlands. Large wetlands (12+ acres) are documented by NYS; smaller wetlands can be observed on soil conservation maps.

Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program

This program, to be implemented by the town, involves the voluntary sale of non-agricultural development rights by a landowner to either a non-profit conservation organization or a government entity. The town to implement a PDR program to be managed in conjunction with the Columbia Land Conservancy, if their workload permits.

  1. In addition to preserving land for agricultural use, a PDR Program can offer other advantages, such as:
  2. Be structured as long-term installment purchases to leverage PDR funds.
  3. Be used to lease development rights in order to provide short-term protection while other conservation funds are sought.
  4. Provide capital to farmers interested in expanding or converting their business operation in some way.

Bond Referendum

The town to submit a bond proposal to the public to generate funds for the preservation of farmland, based on the criteria developed by the Chatham Keep Farming Land Team and incorporated into the comprehensive plan.

The CAP (agriculture committee) to be authorized to move the process forward, including seeking funds and contracting to complete a fiscal analysis. The CAP to then act swiftly to contract with an entity that specializes in PDR bond financing to assist the town in the technical requirements of issuing a bond.

The monies generated through the bond referendum be used principally for the purchase of development rights (PDR) while keeping the leasing of development rights (LDR) as an option to help the town buy time and stabilize its farmland base while farmers expand, diversity, or transfer their operations.

An aggressive public education campaign to begin immediately, with a target date of November 2006 for the bond referendum.

Real Estate Transfer Fee

The town to use the Community Preservation Act to create Community Preservation Funds using a 2% real estate transfer fee. If this Act does not become law, the town to petition the state to create the 2% real estate transfer fee.

This Act requires the town to pass a local law and voter referendum to create a program where home buyers would pay a one-time fee of 2% of the purchase price above the median home value in Columbia County. These monies to be earmarked for accelerating the purchase of development rights of farmland and short-term leasing of development rights.