Agricultural Stewardship Association Strategic Plan 2018
Agricultural Stewardship Association
“The Agricultural Stewardship Association is a key partner in protecting New York’s irreplaceable farmland. Their work is incredibly important at a time when more and more New Yorkers are recognizing the importance of our food, and the farms and farmland that produce this bounty.” - David Haight, New York State Director, American Farmland Trust
Agricultural Stewardship Association Strategic Plan 2018
Agricultural Stewardship Association’s Strategic Plan 2018 reafirms our mission to protect our community’s working landscape of farms and forests, connect people to the land, and promote a vibrant future for agriculture in the region. The Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA) was founded in 1990 by farmers and local citizens who were concerned that increasing development pressure could lead to the loss of valuable farmland. They worried that if too many farms were sold for development it could weaken the region’s agricultural infrastructure and affect the long-term viability of farming. ASA was one of the first, and is still one of the few, land trusts in the country to focus exclusively on the protection of agricultural and forest land. That focus is our greatest strength. Across our nation we are losing valuable farmland to development at an alarming rate. However, the demand for safe, locally produced food and the corresponding economic opportunity this presents is growing. In this time of climate change and population growth, future food security is an issue we must address. For people looking to have a positive impact on the future of our food security, economy, environment and quality of life, there is no cause more compelling than the permanent protection of our agricultural resources. In the spring of 2011, ASA engaged in a strategic planning process to build on its accomplishments, clarify its future vision in response to challenges and opportunities and make choices about how to best move forward. Stakeholders from across the region were invited to meet with us to discuss their values and visions for our community’s future. This plan is the result of that effort by the ASA Board, staff and members of the community.
ASA envisions a community where conserved farms and forests are the foundation of a strong agricultural economy with a vibrant future, and an abundance of wholesome, affordable local food is made available by farmers who are leaders in agricultural innovation and diversification.We envision a community where people living in cities, towns and villages are connected to the working landscape and understand the need for — and passionately support — its conservation, and where ASA is successful at accomplishing its mission and is able to sustain itself and fulfill its responsibility to steward protected lands.
Natural resources essential to agriculture We value the highly productive and irreplaceable soils of our region which, combined with a favorable climate, are an essential resource for our strong agricultural economy and way of life. In turn, farms and forests provide our communities with fresh food, wildlife habitat, clean water, scenic beauty and opportunities for recreation. Culture of agriculture We value our agricultural heritage and the hard-working people who sustain agriculture as a way of life in our community. Generations of farmers have shaped our landscape and culture, providing us with a unique pride and sense of place. Farms and related businesses are the foundation of a strong rural economy, creating employment and economic opportunities for many of our citizens. We believe agriculture is a key component of our region’s future. Integrity and expertise We value integrity in all of our dealings with landowners, neighbors and supporters. We harness expertise, passion for agriculture, sound legal knowledge and positive community relations to achieve goals that are important to people in our region. Teamwork We believe that with passion and a strong work ethic, we can make a positive difference in our community by working together. We value creativity, innovation and collaboration with our landowners, staff, board, volunteers and community partners.
“ Preserving our land with ASA was important to us for several reasons. Having farmed in Albany County before moving to Washington County, we understood the pressure of development and the loss of agriculture infrastructure as the area changed. As our sons showed serious interest in the dairy operation we realized that preserving our land and others preserving their land around us would secure the agriculture future in our area. This decision also brought our business to a place where we could transition the land to the next generation without financial stress. Working with ASA has been a pleasure and brought rewards to us, our family, and the entire community” – Frank & Terry Ziehm, Tiashoke Farms, conservationists
Who We Are and What We Have Accomplished
ASA works in Rensselaer and Washington counties to conserve high-quality farmland and forestland and to build support for land conservation. Since our founding in 1990, ASA has conserved nearly 14,200 acres — with more than three-quarters of the land protection occurring during the past nine years after, since adding professional staff. ASA has worked hard to gain the trust and respect of farmers and the larger community and now operates farmland protection programs for two counties and partners with six towns on purchase of development rights (PDR) projects. In the past five years, ASA has invested in its communications and outreach program in order to increase visibility, strengthen and broaden community support for farmland protection efforts, and build a long-term stewardship ethic within the community. We created our “Making a Connection to the Land” program to offer a variety of interesting community and family-oriented workshops, many of which take place on farms that ASA has conserved. ASA has grown into a well-respected organization with a professional staff and a diverse and dedicated board of
directors. We have experienced a steady increase in membership, due in part to rising organizational visibility and improved outreach. In FY 2012-13, ASA’s operating budget was approximately $500,000. In addition, we manage land projects worth approximately $650,000 annually that do not flow through ASA’s budget. The organization has a stewardship and defense fund of approximately $450,000 to help administer, enforce and defend our conservation easement in perpetuity.
Current Challenges and Opportunities Agriculture in the Washington and Rensselaer county region is faced with both significant challenges and tremendous opportunities. The region is experiencing transitions that hold the potential for either a stronger future for farming — serving the increased demand for locally grown food — or the permanent loss of its working landscapes. While recent milk prices have improved, dairy farmers are still recovering from the lowest milk prices in a generation, which resulted in significant losses for most dairy farms. At a time when area farmers need more support than ever, the economic downturn has tightened local, state and federal budgets, and led to severe cuts in funding
“Through the efforts of the Agricultural Stewardship Association and its many volunteers working in cooperation with our communities and State government, we can ensure that family farms thrive and grow in numbers. Together, we can keep agricultural pursuits attractive to a new generation of farmers and preserve this great tradition for generations to come.” for farmland protection and farm viability programs. This is occurring at the same time as a significant increase in the demand for local food, resulting in a renewed interest in keeping agricultural land available for food, fiber, livestock and timber production. Given their proximity to the expanding communities of the Capital District in the wake of a local high-tech boom, both Washington and Rensselaer counties — which have lower real estate values than many neighboring areas — are vulnerable to expanding development pressure that could erode the agricultural land base. Washington County and parts of Rensselaer County have fewer financial resources than many places in New York State and have limited or no funding designated for land protection. As in many rural areas, there can be a strong anti-zoning and pro-property rights sentiment. Currently, many local governments do not have zoning ordinances; those that do, have regulations that are often inadequate to conserve large tracts of viable farmland. During the next hundred years, the Northeastern U.S. average temperatures are predicted to rise, but Northeast agriculture will remain viable with adequate rainfall and temperature. This could mean an increased
- NYS Assemblyman Tony Jordan
demand for agricultural products from areas negatively impacted by climate change. The completion of conservation projects has slowed down in recent years due to the shortage of state funding. Given the current state of the economy and uncertain state resources, ASA is working to diversify its funding sources for land protection and operations. There is a growing recognition among land trusts of the need to broaden their focus beyond just direct land conservation in order to engage the community and ensure that their conservation work is upheld in the future. As a local land trust with a proven track record for success in the upper Hudson Valley, ASA is an ideal candidate to partner with other larger nonprofit land trusts and foundations. We also have the opportunity to expand our mission by securing properties to hold in fee for public community lands. They could then serve as community resources, for instance, by offering recreational activities, a demonstration forest site or an educational working farm.
ASA’s Five-Year Goals
To increase the total number of conserved farms and forest acres by 8,000 to 11,000 acres, depending on the availability of public and private funding streams
To actively support initiatives in agricultural economic development
Increase number and type of partnerships with public and private organizations to diversify and strengthen the local agricultural economy
Diversify and increase funding sources for land protection in part by advocating for greater public funding
Promote awareness of production and availability of local food
Increase support for donated easements Respond to opportunities within Rensselaer and Washington counties and assist with land conservation in adjacent geographic areas where ASA is an invited partner Build stronger relationships with owners of conserved property by offering more programs for landowners and more outreach programs held on conserved land
“Successful local farms are vital to maintaining the high quality of life we enjoy. From the vast stretches of beautiful landscapes and vistas to the safe local food source our farms provide, the preservation of our local farms becomes more and more critical with each passing day.” -Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen M. Jimino.
Increase number of people connected to the working landscape and supporting its conservation
Build organizational capacity in dollars, staff, expertise, recognition, volunteers and infrastructure
strategies Increase number of people participating in outreach activities, including greater participation by urban populations Increase number and type of events to engage people Double number of active members of the organization Increase the level and range of volunteer participation Broaden the audience and increase the frequency and effectiveness of public communications to build awareness of the importance of land conservation Investigate opportunities for owning land for public access
strategies Achieve Land Trust Accreditation and continually adhere to Land Trust Standards and Practices Build stronger relationships with current donors to increase annual giving by 39% during this five-year period Increase participation in the planned giving program Increase ASAâ€™s Stewardship Fund to a minimum of $815,000 during this five-year period Build a fund functioning as an endowment to $500,000 during this five-year period Increase the pool and responsibility of volunteers by 50% Build staff capacity and invest in their professional development Find a suitable long-term office location for the organization Ensure technological infrastructure capabilities can support ASAâ€™s goals Increase board capacity to accomplish goals [board size, geographic distribution, training, etc] Promote collaboration and a culture of appreciation and learning within the organization
“As vegetable growers in Rensselaer County, we take great pride in knowing that our farm will be forever dedicated to supporting agricultural pursuits. Brian and I organically cultivate approximately 20 acres of vegetables on our 164 acre farm in Schaghticoke and it is vitally important to our family that we have conserved good, tillable farmland that will provide for the next generation of farmers the opportunity to continue to feed and nourish our local community. Without the support, diligence, and talent of the ASA staff, we would never have accomplished this amazing task.” – Justine Denison, Denison Farm
“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Agricultural Stewardship Association
14 Main Street, Suite 100 || Greenwich, NY 12834 ||
Visit us online at agstewardship.org
518-692-7720 || email@example.com
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ASA Strategic Plan 2018