GRANITE SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Folks who have been gobbling up the Granny Smiths and Galas from Stuart’s in Somers for generations need no longer worry where the future fixings for their apple pies will come from, says state Sen. Terrence Murphy.
The oldest working family farm in Westchester has been snatched from the jaws of the developer’s bulldozer by a $1.84 million state grant designed to preserve its land for agricultural purposes.
Without the protection, the 170-acre farm could have been turned into a 50-house subdivision, said Murphy, R-Yorktown.
Calling it an “unprecedented commitment,” the lawmaker said the money comes from the state's first-ever regionally targeted farmland conservation grant program, the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program.
Murphy, who helped create the program, said he himself has fond memories of going to pick apples and pumpkins at Stuart’s with his four siblings.
The farm “has been a part of our community for generations,” he added.
Stuart's gets more than 20,000 visitors each year.
People come for the fruits and vegetables, but also spend money at local restaurants and businesses, Murphy said.
Thousands of schoolchildren visit the farm on Granite Springs Road every years to learn about agriculture, local history, and the importance of local food production.
Farms are an important part of the landscape and economy of Westchester, said Lori Ensinger, president of the Westchester Land Trust.
They are, she added, “one of the features that make our region so special.”
Putting houses on the land would have strained schools, infrastructure, and the watershed, Murphy said.
The Westchester Land Trust will hold the farm's conservation easement.
According to Murphy, the cost of the project is $3 million, with an additional funding coming from the Westchester Land Trust ($25,000), Somers Land Trust ($3,000) and Scenic Hudson ($370,000), plus $400,000 from Westchester County, and $300,000 from the town of Somers.
The state's Open Space Conservation Plan determined that Stuart’s was a “high priority” project because of the need to not only protect the “critically important watershed,” but because of its proximity to other farms as well as protected wildlife corridors.