Local Economies Project Builds Partnership to Preserve Stone Ridge Orchard
Local Economies Project celebrates the recent purchase of the Stone Ridge Orchard Property by its operator Elizabeth Ryan, the first step in an innovative land program designed to preserve working farmland and maintain its affordability to farmers. The purchase, which will allow the Orchard’s scenic 116 acres to continue as a working farm, was made possible through Equity Trust’s recently created Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program, with Equity Trust providing a $1 million bridge loan towards the purchase.
A Unique Collaboration
The Stone Ridge Orchard purchase represents a collaborative effort to permanently preserve the Orchard as an affordable farm property. Equity Trust and Ryan are partnering with Scenic Hudson to place a specialized easement on the property that will not only prevent development on the land but also include active farming requirements and resale price restrictions to keep it affordable for future farmers. Scenic Hudson, with support from the Open Space Institute, will finance the purchase of development rights while seeking a match from the Federal Agricultural Conservation Easements Program. Additional funds to purchase permanent affordability restrictions will come from Equity Trust and from local fundraising.
The Stone Ridge Orchard is popular tourist destination also frequented by a loyal local customer base. New owner Elizabeth Ryan is a veteran fruit grower and entrepreneur who has leased the property since 2006. Her diverse farm enterprises include fruit growing and associated products, farm stands and u-pick operations, a bakery, and a burgeoning hard cider business, many of which she expects to continue to develop on the Stone Ridge Property. Ryan also owns Breezy Hill Orchards and Cider Mill in Dutchess County, NY.
The property is one of the last remaining viable orchards in the Rondout Valley. Situated in between the Ulster County hamlets of Stone Ridge and High Falls, it has access to two state highways, large ponds, and breathtaking views of the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. The easement, once in place, will ensure that the land stays in agricultural use.
Equity Trust and the Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program
Equity Trust is a small, national non-profit organization committed to helping communities gain ownership interests in land and other local resources for public benefit, and to supporting economic relations that balance the needs of individuals with the needs of their community, the earth, and future generations.
With assistance from Local Economies Project and Imprint Capital, Equity Trust’s Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program was launched with a $1 million farm affordability fund and a $3 million revolving loan fund. The goals of the program are to preserve access to locally grown food in the Hudson Valley and help to make land ownership more affordable to farmers. Using low-interest social investments together with grant monies, the program is designed to help conservation organizations keep protected farms accessible to farmers at prices that can be supported by farming.
“Access to affordable farmland is a critical part of LEP’s Farm Hub programming objectives, said Jerry Cosgrove, Local Economies Project’s Associate Director. “We applaud our partners for working so hard to make this happen here in the Hudson Valley.”