Hank Kraszewski III, of Kraszewski Farms, a third-generation farmer, has bought 19.2 acres of land on Head of Pond Road in Water Mill in a sale arranged by Peconic Land Trust. He plans to grow vegetables on the farmland and open a retail farm stand during 2015.
Last summer PLT issued a request for proposal for the property after acquiring the 33-acre property in July 2014. Subsequently Southampton Town bought the development rights to the land, which included — for the first time — restrictions that ensure the land will be actively farmed, primarily in food production. The sale was offered under the trust’s Farms for the Future initiative, which bought the farmland from the estate of Charlotte Danilevsky; it is adjacent to 34 acres of protected farmland currently in equestrian use and 60 acres of protected farmland out of production. The trust anticipates announcing the buyer of the second parcel in the coming months.
“I love everything about farming, there’s nothing I don’t like. I’m looking forward to working with my family – my mother and father – and to growing the business alongside my dad. Buying this farmland is important for the future of our family farm – we know that this is land that we will never lose and have forever,” said Kraszewski.
Hank III is a third generation farmer on Long Island and has worked in his family’s farming business, Kraszewski Farms, since he was seven years old. His great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Poland and started a small potato farm on the East End. Today, the family’s farming operation includes Hank’s Pumpkintown in Water Mill and Hank’s Farmstand in Southampton. He recently graduated from Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Penn., where he studied commercial crop production in the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. The Kraszewskis farm 450 acres on the East End, but own only 150 of those acres. “One of the things I think about is what will the farm be like when I’m my dad’s age. Owning farmland is an important part of assuring that our family will be farming into the next generation,” said Kraszewski.
Peconic Land Trust bought the two parcels (19.2 acres and 13.9 acres, for a total of 33 acres) for $12,025,000; Southampton bought the new, enhanced restrictions from the trust for approximately $11.167 million. Consequently, the restricted value of this newly protected farmland is approximately $26,000 an acre, a price far more affordable for food production farmers than protected farmland with lesser restrictions that sells for as much as $200,000 an acre. Both Danilevsky parcels are subject to Affirmative & Affordable Farming Covenants and Resale Restrictions (see details below). The trust currently holds similar restrictions on about 60 acres of farmland in Sagaponack. Southampton Town is the first municipality in New York State to purchase enhanced restrictions on farmland, a remarkable milestone.
Affirmative & Affordable Farming Covenants and Resale Restrictions from PLT’s Press Release
In recent years, sales of protected farmland on Long Island’s South Fork to non-farmers have been as high as $200,000 per acre, raising the average value of protected farmland to over $100,000 per acre — well beyond the reach of farmers who grow food. The covenants and restrictions lower the price of the land to its “true agricultural value” for food production. The Danilevsky farmland parcels include the following restrictions:
- 80 percent of the farmland must be used for the production of food.
- equestrian use of the property is prohibited;
- horticultural specialties that result in the removal of soil from the property are prohibited;
- if the farmland is fallow for one year, it must be kept available for agricultural use and managed subject to a Natural Resource Conservation Plan;
- if the farmland is fallow for two years, the town has the right to lease it to another farmer to ensure it remains in agricultural production.
- future sales of the additionally restricted farmland are limited to its value at the time of the town’s purchase of development rights (about $26,000 per acre) plus the value of any agricultural improvements added to the property by the farmer. The land’s appreciation is limited to the lower of either the area median income or the Consumer Price Index not to exceed 3.5 percent annually;
- the town reviews and approves all future sales to ensure the restricted farmland is purchased by a qualified farmer;
- the trust, or a similar organization, will be the purchaser of last resort if the owner is unable to find a farmer to buy the restricted farmland. When bought under these circumstances, the protected farmland would be offered for sale to qualified farmers through a transparent selection process including a “request for proposals” and lottery, if necessary.
According to PLT, landmark efforts to protect farms and farming in Suffolk County started in the 1970s are unraveling. In total, about 12,000 of 34,000 acres of farmland in Suffolk County have been protected from residential or commercial development through development restrictions held by Suffolk County, towns, and the Peconic Land Trust. For the most part, these restrictions protect the resource but do not ensure protected farmland will be farmed. This has led to the dramatic increase in the number of non-farmers buying protected farmland for lawns and other amenities to development as well as for horses, especially in Southampton Town. As a consequence, agriculture as we know it, including the production of local food, may very well disappear on Long Island, perhaps within a generation on the South Fork, unless aggressive actions are taken. Not only has this trend driven up the value of protected farmland to more than $100,000 per acre on the South Fork, it has additional consequences, including:
- a tremendous increase in federal and state inheritance tax liabilities for farmers, which will necessitate the sale of protected farmland at the highest possible price, primarily to non-farmers;
- an inability for most farmers who produce food to purchase protected farmland at $100,000 per acre or more (the maximum they can afford is $20,000 to $30,000 per acre);
- without working farms that provide fresh, locally produced food to residents and visitors, we will lose an extraordinary facet of our community character and an important component of our local economy.