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Keeping up with the farmers next door

Milton seeks Farmland Protection Plan

A good illustration of why it's important that towns incorporate land use planning and include agricultural lands in that planning along with farmland protection. Photo by Dietrich Gehring.

A good illustration of why it's important that towns incorporate land use planning and include agricultural lands in that planning along with farmland protection. Photo by Dietrich Gehring.

— A plan to protect farmland in the Town of Milton is budding, and proponents hope for something similar to what nearby towns have adopted.

The Milton Farmland Protection Committee has been working on a plan for over a year. Milton’s previous Town Supervisor, Frank Thompson had approached Sanford Becker, president of the committee and owner of Winterwood Horse Farm to set up the group. There are five board members on the committee, including Jaime O’Neill of the Saratoga County Planning Department.

“Last year I sat down with the committee and we went over some general things,” O’Neill said. “They’ve done a lot of the basic legwork on their own, looking into things like assessment records and agricultural parcels.”

The nearby towns of Charlton and Malta both have farmland protections plans. There are 115,000 acres of designated agricultural lands in the county. As development has picked up in many areas of the county, some say there’s a need to protect that farmland and their rich soils.

The drafting of a protection plan involves several steps: taking inventory of agricultural lands, using consultants to help develop the plan, gathering public input and ultimately submitting a plan to the county’s Agricultural Protection Board for approval. It is then sent to the state commissioner of agriculture for approval.

According to O’Neill, Milton’s plan would state that the town wants development to happen in the next five to 10 years, but not in areas viable for farmland. The committee spent more than a month assessing farmland in the town and identified about 40 parcels, including12 horse farms and five farms raising beef cattle.

“New York State is losing the equivalent of one farm to suburban sprawl every three-and-a-half days,” said Laura Ten Eyck, senior manager of NewYork projects and outreach for American Farmland Trust. “Because New York is what is called a home rule state, it is our town governments ... that are directly responsible for conducting land use planning that minimizes the loss of farmland essential to successful agricultural businesses

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