The younger Hank Kraszewski, 22, son of Hank Kraszewski of Hank’s Pumpkintown fame in Water Mill, will be the first farmer to farm land preserved under Southampton Town’s new enhanced development rights purchase program.
Last summer, after years of discussion on rethinking the town’s land preservation methods, the Southampton Town Board preserved its first two farmland parcels using new criteria that the land, totaling 33 acres on Head of Pond Road and Leo’s Lane in Water Mill, must remain in the hands of working food farmers.
Both Hank Kraszewskis and John vH Halsey of the Peconic Land Trust came to the Southampton Town Board’s Jan. 29 work session to discuss their work on the project.
Southampton Town agreed to pay $338,000 per acre for extra covenants on the land when they purchased it from the estate of Charlotte Danilevsky last summer, after which the Peconic Land Trust purchased the land, stripped of its development value, in the hopes of turning it over to a working farmer.
In agreeing to pay for the extra restrictions on the land, Southampton Town became the first town in the state to implement such a food farming program, which became necessary because the value of agricultural land on the South Fork, even stripped of its development rights, is far out of reach of most food farmers.
Instead, preserved farmland in the town had been used for everything from vineyards to riding stables to nursery crops and even expansive meadows in front of expensive homes.
Hank Kraszewski III purchased 19 acres from the Peconic Land Trust for about $26,000 per acre at the end of 2014, and the second parcel, about 13 acres, may soon go into contract, said Mr. Halsey at the work session.
“This is going to create a supply of land for food production at a price that food farmers can afford. That really is the key,” said Mr. Halsey.
The younger Mr. Kraszewski said he plans to grow vegetables on the land this season, and perhaps ultimately put a farm stand there.
Mr. Halsey said the average value of an acre of restricted farmland on the South Fork is currently about $120,000 while the cost of such land on the North Fork is about $25,000 per acre. The average price of an acre of farmland statewide is about $17,000, and Mr. Halsey said he believes in many places upstate that’s the price of land with its development rights intact.
“[This is] way beyond what local farmers can afford, traditional farmers of food production in particular,” said Mr. Halsey. “The town is allowed to lease the land if it’s out of production for two years… It also assures that the land will be sold at its newly restricted value to future farmers. That’s extraordinary.”
Mr. Kraszewski, II said he believes “$25,000 is about as far as i think it should be for vegetable production. When you see the landscape value of 4,000 pieces of hedge at $30 to $40 apiece, you’re not going to get that for sweet corn…. The nursery guys could probably do more, but they pull different crops.”
Hank Kraszewski III is a third generation farmer who has worked on Kraszewski Farms since he was seven years old. He recently graduated from Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Penn., where he studied commercial crop production in the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
“One of the things I think about is what will the farm be like when I’m my dad’s age,” he said. “Owning farmland is an important part of assuring that our family will be farming into the next generation.”
Mr. Halsey said Southampton’s new program fits nicely with the Land Trust’s Farms for the Future program, which rents agricultural land to young farmers to help them get started in the business.
“You’ve got all these new farmers, some from established families and some that are new to the community. Where do they go? We can only incubate new farmers if there is a place ultimately for them to go,” he said. “This whole effort is going to create a supply that will be available for food production at a price that food production farmers can afford.”
John Halsey of the Milk Pail in Water Mill told the board that no farmer he’s heard of is looking for a bail-out, but that farmers are essential to grow food for everybody else.
“Growing food in our own backyard cuts down on the time food travels and the preservatives and chemicals to go on food to keep them,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “There’s a whole food cycle there that we are not supporting. We are supporting eating freshly grown food in our own backyard. People come here for that.”