Courtesy of the Sull. Co. Div. of Planning
FULTON HILL ROAD shoots off to the west at the top of this aerial photo of Kenoza Lake, where the county’s planned model demonstration farm might sit, should everyone agree on lease terms. The yellow lines indicated parcel boundaries and rights-of-way.
A model farm?
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County is preparing a lease that may see the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and a slew of other groups start up a model farm in Kenoza Lake.
And the 84-acre property on Fulton Hill Road may even one day host a re-creation of the Gross Breesen farm that sheltered Jewish youth from Nazi oppression in pre-World War II Germany.
On Thursday, County Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer told legislators that NOFA and its partners are willing to invest nearly $300,000 in the plan to turn a former sculpture farm into a functional agricultural/educational operation including livestock, vegetables, fruits and berries, a greenhouse, agroforestry, exhibits and demonstrations, and outreach efforts.
But county officials envision a much wider array of funding, thanks to the participation of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development, Open Space Institute, Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Watershed Agricultural Council and the Town of Delaware.
“The nature of this coalition is maybe the most exciting piece,” agreed Greg Swartz, a director of NOFA and a local farmer himself. “There is massive fundraising leverage… and a huge skills set coming to the table.”
Thanks to local resident Steve Strauss, there may also be a re-creation of Gross Breesen updated to fit the needs of 21st century youth and farmers.
Strauss said yesterday that discussions with the county were in the earliest stages, but on Thursday legislators seemed unanimous in their praise of the concept.
“It’s historical, but practical and pragmatic,” said Leni Binder.
“It’s a great story about ethics, hard work and challenging people’s responsibilities,” added Dave Sager, who recently toured the property with Strauss.
An in-depth exhibit on the Gross Breesen farm concept is planned for July 22 at 1 p.m. at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake.
For now, the county is paying to keep the electric on at the Kenoza Lake farm so as to start resolving some humidity issues inside the main building.
Pammer hopes to have a draft of a 10-year lease to legislators soon one that will be designed to offset tax losses the town and county might incur.
There had been some concern, especially by the Delaware Town Board, that the property may be taken off the tax rolls and burden the township. However, county officials said they have the support of the town. Delaware Supervisor Jim Scheutzow did not return a call to confirm.
Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham pointed out that the huge New York City food market is just to the south of Sullivan County, so money may not remain an issue for long.
“You have this inertia happening around the localization of food,” he added.
“If the plans are put together properly,” agreed Strauss, “the funds will come forth.”