Two properties in Eden will become the town’s first to be preserved forever as farmland.
The 103-acre Surgenor Farm on Sandrock Road and the 90-acre Meyer Farm off Route 62 will be protected with a conservation easement held by the Western New York Land Conservancy.
“The land conservancy has had it as a goal, almost from the beginning of our organization, to protect farmland in Eden,” said Nancy Smith, the land conservancy’s executive director.
The conservancy was approved for funding through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The federal funding, as well as funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a private donor, the Town of Eden and a bargain-price sale of development rights by the property owners, combined for the $487,000 needed to purchase the easements from the land owners.
The land conservancy will hold the easement, which extinguishes any development rights. The owners of the property will continue to own it, and they may sell it, but future owners will not be able to develop housing or other non-agricultural ventures.
“In the bigger picture,” said Eden Supervisor Glenn Nellis, “it carries a possibility of encouraging other agricultural folks in Eden to consider doing a similar kind of thing. This is the garden spot of New York State.”
The Surgenor farm is owned by William A. and Robert W. Feasley, and Frank and Linda Meyer own the Meyer farm, which has been leased by the Preischel family for 30 years.
The Feasley family farmed in Eden for more than 70 years, starting out with a small vegetable business that evolved into a dairy farm. The Feasleys, who at one time operated a pasteurizing and bottling plant and milk stores, retired from farming in 2000.
The 103-acre Surgenor Farm is the final property owned by the family and this was their last opportunity to protect their own farmland, according to the conservancy.
The Meyer farm has been owned and farmed by Meyer’s family since the late 1800s and is considered a pivotal “gateway” agricultural parcel, located at the edge of the Eden business and commercial district.
That location, in addition to its very high proportion of level, productive cropland, made it a high priority for preservation, the conservancy said.
The federal conservation program requires a 50 percent match of federal funds. Part of the local matching funds came from the property owners, who agreed to sell the development rights for a “bargain” price below the appraised value, Smith said.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation and a private donor made up the rest of the matching funds, while the Town of Eden is contributing $4,000.
Eden joins Amherst, Clarence, Elma and Marilla in taking steps to permanently protect farmland and open space.