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Harvesting Opportunities in New York 2013 Conference Inspires & Educates

Last month, at American Farmland Trust’s (AFT) Harvesting Opportunities in New York conference over 200 participants gathered to focus on issues surrounding local farm and food economies and farmland conservation. It was an exciting day of great speakers, standing-room-only workshops and delicious food and drink, along with much high-spirited networking.   

Spicy Group with Shared Values 

David Haight, New York State director for AFT kicked off the day’s events by celebrating the diversity of the energetic crowd. “Those with us today include farmers, land trusts, local leaders, planners, foodservice professionals, distributors, economic development specialists, child care and emergency food providers, farmers market managers and state leaders including legislators, and representatives from the state Comptroller’s office, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Department of Health, Empire State Development and SUNY,” said Haight. “Together we are a spicy group with shared values. We are here to highlight opportunities, discuss challenges and spur action.”

We Can’t Afford to Lose Any Farmland 

Introduced by Haight, AFT President and CEO Andrew McElwaine provided the big picture. “Due to population growth, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world needs to double food production by 2050 ,” said McElwaine. “Yet 90 percent of the planet’s arable land is already in production. Even though we clearly can’t afford to lose any farmland, since 1980, the United States has lost 23 million acres of productive agricultural land to development. Despite this many states, during the recession, suspended or even eliminated funding for farmland preservation and in the impending federal Farm Bill funding for farmland protection  and other conservation programs remains on the negotiation table…But with the leadership of many of the groups here today, we hope and expect New York to become a model for the rest of the country for farmland protection, local food systems, and inter-generational transfer of agricultural lands.” 

Participants attended four conference tracks: Buy Local; Save Farms in Your Community; Spread the Word; and Farmland for the Next Generation of Farmers, taking part in workshops on protecting farmland from suburban sprawl, help for beginning farmers trying to access farmland and strategies for improving farm profitability by increasing institutional purchasing of food grown in New York.  


Farmland is the Centerpiece of Agriculture 

Coming together to share a Thanksgiving-themed lunch sourced from local farms conference participants heard remarks from New York State’s Acting Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Bays a farmer himself.  “Governor  Cuomo asked me to come here to thank all of you for the work that you do to preserve a way of life that I too am proud to be a part of,” said Bays. “The Governor understands the importance of agriculture to this state’s economy, and as you know the centerpiece of agriculture is farmland. Without going into specifics, I think that everyone here will be very pleased with some of the announcements we have lined up in the near future to advance the preservation of farmland.”

State Funding for Farmland Conservation

The conference was well covered in the media including commentary written by AFT’s President and CEO Andrew McElwaine and New York State Director David Haight in the Times Union in which AFT reinforced the call for Governor Cuomo to increase funding for the Farmland Protection Program to $25 million in his Executive Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 as well as to issue a new Request for Proposals for the Farmland Protection Program . After the conference, participants and partner organizations came together to sign on to a letter to Governor Cuomo calling for the same.   

“AFT–Leader & Valuable Resource” 

Beginning farmers left the conference with outlines for farmland access strategies. Public health advocates and college students working on getting farm produce grown in New York to people served by state institutions laid plans for continued collaboration. Local officials, land trusts and concerned citizens went home “re-inspired” and “passionate” about protecting farmland and supporting local agriculture in their communities.  “American Farmland Trust is both a leader and a valuable resource to those of us working to protect farmland and support agriculture and the local level,” observed one conference participant.  

Thank You to Conference Funders & Sponsors 

Financial support for the Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies and Protecting Farmland conference was provided by:  

The Environmental Protection Fund and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program in collaboration with the Land Trust Alliance and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  

Special Program funding for the “Farmland for the Next Generation of Farmers” track of workshops was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and Markets Risk Management Agency.  

Special program funding for the “Buy Local” track of workshops was provided by The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation and The New World Foundation’s Local Economies Project.

Conference sponsors include: Farm Credit East; DASHY NY; Park Slope Food Coop; Slow Food NYC; Great Performances; Foodlink; NOFA-NY; Peconic Land Trust; Scenic Hudson; Adams Fairacre Farms; Hudson Valley Fresh; Labella Associates; John Deere; Dairylea and Dairy Farmers of America; Food and Health Network of South Central NY; Rural Health Network of South Central NY; Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation; Saratoga PLAN; Farm Bureau New York; Capital District Community Gardens; Lead NY; University of Albany Green Scene; Long Field Farm; Orange County Land Trust, Heritage Radio Network and the members of American Farmland Trust.





Farmland Conservation in New York 

Land Access for Beginning Farmers   

On Farm Production of Beer, Wine & Spirits 

PR Newswire 

Times Union Commentary 







Download the 2013 Conference Brochure  (pdf)

Download the 2013 Conference Program (pdf)

Download the 2013 Panelist Bios & Contact info (pdf)


The day-long conference was held on Wednesday, November 20 at the Hilton Albany, located at 40 Lodge St. in downtown Albany. The 2013 conference featured 12 concurrent workshops as well as a morning and lunchtime program. A Cider Doughnut Continental Breakfast with Chobani© yogurt jump-started the day and Thanksgiving—Locally Grown lunch was served!

American Farmland Trust greatly appreciates the significant financial support for The Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies and Protecting Farmland conference provided by: 

The Environmental Protection Fund and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program in collaboration with the Land Trust Alliance and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

●   ●   ●

Special Program Funding For The “Farmland for the Next Generation of Farmers” Track Of Workshops Is Provided By:

•The United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management AgencyUSDA RMA LOGOThis institution is an equal opportunity provider.

●   ●   ●

Special Program Funding For The “Buy Local” Track Of Workshops Is Provided By:

 •The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation

•The New World Foundation’s Local Economies Project


Thank You to all of our Sponsors!






                                      Orange County Land Trust OCLT logo

Sponsorship Opportunities (pdf)

More information on Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies & Protecting Farmland will be coming soon. In the meantime please “like” our facebook page and follow us on twitter at @FarmlandNY  #HarvestingOpportunityNY to keep up with the latest information or if you have any questions please email us at or call (518) 581-0078.

Remember—No Farms No Food©!

Click here to check out information and pics from the 2012 conference!


  1. Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    We are looking for someone who want to grow veggies on our farmstead. We are too busy running our B&B (certified green) to tend to the gardens and would happily have someone use the land to grow and sell veggies. Any thoughts on how to approach this?


    • Posted November 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Some of the things you can do to attract farmers in need of land is to post on craigslist. Also, approach local colleges and farmers market managers giving them the details of what you are offering.

      Goundswell Center for Local Food and Farming
      New Farmer Development Project

      Remember to protect yourself with a signed waiver of liability, etc. I am considering doing this myself! Good Luck.

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