Democrat File Photo By Jeanne Sager
SAWYER ERLWEIN, THE son of Dawn and Pete Erlwein, tends to a cow on the farm owned by his family since 1842.
Myers Farm Receives $836K Farmland Protection Grant
By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE October 24, 2006 A farm that’s fed and clothed six generations of Myers is here to stay.
Myers Century Farm, located just outside Jeffersonville on Earl Myers Road, has earned the county its first-ever Farmland Protection grant, part of the $59 million in Environmental Protection Fund grants handed out by the state last week.
The farm, transitioning into the hands of Dawn Myers Erlwein and husband Pete, played host earlier this year to Down on the Farm Day, a quarter-century tradition that shares the dying life of the family farm with the public.
Dawn, one of Earl and Marian Myers’ six kids, always knew she’d grow up to farm.
She married the guy from down the street and settled down on the family farm to work with her parents.
Seventeen years later, the Erlweins are in the process of taking over the farm started by one of Dawn’s ancestors, Henry Myers, back in 1842.
Their three children, Sawyer, Rianne and Austin, lend a hand with milking and feeding the cows.
And chances are, one of them will be running the farm in the future.
The $836,000 Farmland Protection Grant will ensure someone will be farming on the hill outside of Jeffersonville long into the future.
According to Joe Walsh, the Cornell Cooperative Extension educator who worked with former county planning department agriculture expert Rick Bishop to write the grant application, the monies will be used to purchase development rights on the farm.
Dawn and Pete won’t be using state monies to buy a new car or update their milking parlor.
The monies will be sunk into protecting the land.
“The land would essentially be encumbered for development,” Walsh explained.
On the off-chance that the Erlwein kids wanted to sell their family homestead, Walsh said they’d have to sell to buyer interested in farming the land.
This is the second time the Myers farm has been on the state’s application list.
This year it was one of three submitted by the county.
Getting a portion of the $21.5 million in Farmland Protection grants available statewide was a coup for the county.
It’s important, he continued, because of “escalating and continued development pressure in the county.”
“We’ve been trying since ’98; this is the first time we’ve been successful,” Walsh explained.
Earl Myers said the family owes a debt of gratitude to Walsh and Bishop for trying again and again to bring this money to Sullivan County.
“It means a lot in honor of past generations and perhaps future ones that this will remain open space,” Myers said.
The 230-acre farm on the hill earned the honor in part because of the past generations and in part because there is a future.
“The application looks at a number of different things,” Walsh explained, “soil quality has a lot to do with it, the viability of the farm, whether it is being passed on to another generation.”
The Myers Century Farm is one of just 37 dairy farms left in Sullivan County, one of 380 farms overall.
Even with numbers dwindling, agriculture still represents $67.5 million generated for the county economy, Walsh said.
The key to sustaining that economic impact is protecting the farms, he explained.
“We’ve gotten our first grant, now we can begin tacking on additional parcels,” he noted. “This will serve as sort of Ground Zero.”
Dawn Erlwein looked around her family farm earlier this year as she prepared for a busy day sharing her life with the public.
“It’s not an easy life,” she said. “But you know you’re there, you know you’re part of something you know you’re special.”