Before the Lease: Farm Choices for Landowners

Hosted: November 12, 2016

Hear from practitioners about the considerations landowners should be aware of when deciding what type of farming they would like to see on their land. 

Local experts, including service providers and farmers from Dutchess and Columbia Counties in New York, explain the “ins and outs” of various types and styles of farming. Discussion includes an explanation of farm terms (organic, sustainable, grass-fed, CAFO), what it takes to succeed in farming for the long-term, challenges, and thoughts about the future of farming.

A forum of the Columbia Land Conservancy & Dutchess Land Conservancy Farmer Landowner Match Program, Also brought to you by the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, coordinated by the American Farmland Trust.

Speakers & Videos 

Part 1

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General overview of farming trends in the Hudson Valley, and definition of some commonly used terms

Will Yandik, Farmer, Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor 

Will Yandik is the fourth-generation to work his family's 99-year-old fruit and vegetable farm, Green Acres. In wintertime, he is also a writer and lecturer and serves as the Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Livingston. Will has degrees in environmental science from Princeton and Brown Universities. 

Soil types and how soil is impacted by agriculture

Josh Ginsberg, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies 

Dr. Joshua Ginsberg is a conservation ecologist and President of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and his B.S. from Yale University. His career in conservation science spans 35 years and several continents. Before coming to the Cary Institute in 2014, Ginsberg held several senior management roles at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), ultimately acting as Senior Vice President of their Global Conservation Program, where he oversaw initiatives in North America, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the marine environment. This included fundraising and managing an $87 million budget. During the 1980s and 1990s, Ginsberg led ecology and conservation projects in Asia and East and Southern Africa.

Since 1988, Ginsberg has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Past academic appointments have included: Research Fellow in Ecology at the Zoological Society of London, Honorary Research Fellow and Lecturer at University College London, and Research Fellow at Oxford University.

Ginsberg sits on the boards of the Ocean Foundation, the Open Space Institute, and the Catskill Mountainkeeper, and is a member of the advisory council of the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. 

Panel discussion with agricultural service providers 


Mick Bessire is in his 18th year acting as an agricultural extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties. He was raised and educated in the Southwest, (Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas) where the family operations included farming, ranching, and feedlot operations. He has worked most of his adult life in the production side of agriculture and agri-business. He continues to maintain ownership of the ranch in OK-TX, and leases it to neighbors in his absence. 

In addition to the extension educator position here, he also worked 6 years as an agricultural education instructor for FFA in Colorado, at both the high school and community college levels. He has 3 grown children, and they with their families are spread out all over the country – New Jersey, New York, and Colorado, along with 9 grandchildren - that he looks forward to spending more time with in the nearby future. 

Jason Detzel is social worker turned farmer and owner of Diamond Hills Farm, a pasture based cow/ calf operation in Hudson, New York. When he is not grazing, watering, or calving he is the Livestock Educator for the Ulster County Cooperative Extension Office. He gets up early, tries to stay up late, and enjoys looking at his collection of unread books. 

He is currently hard at work trying to slow the rotation of earth in order to increase the length of the days and is the most happy at that time of year when you can smell the soil but not the cold. 

David Rifenburgh is a Farm Business Advisor in the Claverack, NY office of Farm Credit East. David specializes in suppling tax and business advisement as well as tax compliance services to clients. He is a Certified Financial Planner and has over 20 years of agricultural lending experience. David is a native of the Hudson Valley and holds a degree in Business Economics from SUNY Oneonta. 

Part 2 

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Panel discussion with area farmers 


Nathan Chittenden resides in Stuyvesant, NY. There, he with his parents and two brothers operate Dutch Hollow Farm LLC. The farm consists of a registered Jersey herd with 700 milk cows and another 700 replacements. Feed is grown on approximately 2000 acres of farm land, including 1300 acres of leased farmland, to feed the animals. Nathan is responsible for the managing the farm operation's young stock. Nathan also serves on the Board of Directors for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Columbia & Greene Counties, as a Director for the Young Cooperator Program and sits on the Agri-Mark Cooperative Board.

In 1981, Richard Biezynski purchased Northwind Farm in Tivoli. Raised in New York City’s Queens suburb of Bayside, Biezynski was born with farming in his blood. His maternal great-grandmother farmed in Columbia County’s Bells Pond and Biezynski always dreamed of returning to his mother’s family farm. 

Northwind Farm pasture raises chickens, pheasants, guinea hens, Peking (the commonly known Long Island) ducks, full-flavored Muscovy ducks, wild mallards, squab, geese, and turkeys. They also raises birds for show including peacocks and pheasants. 

Jean-Paul Courtens is a native from the Netherlands and has lived in the US since 1986. He studied at Warmonderhof (part of Groenhorst College) which earned him a degree in Biodynamic Agriculture. Jean-Paul is the Associate Director of Farmer Training at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub in Hurley NY, a 1200-acre mixed crop farm. His work at the Hub includes stewarding the land to organic/ecological practices, hosting research on ecological farming, providing education to the residential “ProFarmers” and staff, and hosting educational events for regional farmers. 

He is also the co-owner of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, NY, an integrated farm, producing vegetables, beef, pork and lamb on 375 acres utilizing biodynamic principles and practices. Equity Trust Inc. in collaboration with Roxbury Farm developed a model ground lease to ensure that farmland remains in the hands of farmers. Jean-Paul Courtens and Jody Bolluyt hold a 99 year ground lease on the farmland but own the farm business, equipment, buildings and other improvements. 

Growing up on an organic farm in Hillsdale, NY,  Ben Dobson was raised in an environment that was conscious of the ground. Having established multiple organic agriculture businesses in the Northeast, dabbled in coffee importation from Haiti, and assisted in producing and exporting organic products from the Dominican Republic, Dobson has now returned to his roots. 

He is currently working to plan and transition Stone House Farm in Livingston, NY, into an organic and sustainable producer. Implementing the “no-till” method, the transition of Stone House Farm is based on holistic management of our land to retain and rebalance the earth and bring healthy grains and meats to local markets. 

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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