Four generations of a prominent farm family will see their legacy and work continue here in Yates County with the help of New York State and the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Last week, it was announced that $967,522 has been awarded to the Trust to protect 414 acres of the Christiansen Farm on Quenan Road in Torrey through the Dairy Transitions Farmland Protection Initiative. This initiative was in addition to the normal rounds of funding and was specifically designed to fund conservation easements on dairy farms. Awarded through the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the funds will be used for Purchase of Development Rights to permanently protect agricultural lands associated with the Christiansen Farm in Yates County.

“This is great news for both the Christensen family and for Yates County,” says Caroline Boutard-Hunt, Agricultural Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County.

Guy Christiansen represents the third genernation, having taken over from his late father, Harold, who passed in 2015, who took over for his father, Paul, who purchased the farm in 1944.

The Yates County Ag and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) supported the Christiansen’s application for the Dairy Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. 

Co Chairs Arlene Wilson and Larry Lewis wrote, “The Christiansen family has been very interested in protecting their farm for many years. They first submitted a pre-application to Yates County AFPB in 2008 and they have attended educational programs regarding the FPIG program. The AFPB feels confident in the quality of this application for the Dairy FPIG Round and strongly supports its submission. The reasons for its strength are as follows: 

“1.) The Christiansen Farm is a multigenerational certified organic dairy farm that has successfully passed the farm through two prior generations, growing and modernizing along the way; 

“2.) The family is currently in the process of transitioning the farm from Guy to his two sons, Tim and Ryan, who have been working alongside him since they were boys and are committed to growing their family farm into the future; 

“3.) The farm consists of majority prime soils and soils of statewide importance; 

“4.) The farm is located along State Highway 54 where development pressure is great; 

“5.) The farm is located directly in the priority area identified for farmland protection by the Yates County AFPB as illustrated in the attached agritourism map; and 

“6.) There is significant local support for this application as protection of this farm meets to goals of the Towns where it is located, Benton and Torrey.”

Before anything else, Guy says he wants to express his thanks to his son Tim, “who did the leg work on this starting 10 years ago, and for his patience and persistence. It’s been in the works for a while.” Guy is also thankful for the help and support of the Yates County Legislature, the AFPB, Cooperative Extension, the FLLT and Elizabeth Newbold, N.Y. Ag. & Markets, and the Torrey Town Board.

Guy says the the transfer will take up to two years to complete. Asked what he plans to do with the new funds, he recalled the joke about the old farmer who was asked that after winning $1 millon in the lottery; “I guess I’ll just keep farming till it’s gone.” More seriously, Guy, now in his 60s, says the funds will help with the transfer of ownership to his sons who would not be able to afford to buy it on their own in the current land market.

The grant was part of more than $18.6 million provided in support of conservation easement projects on 25 New York dairy farms. The projects awarded will protect 10,253 acres of viable agricultural land comprised of prime soils.

Dairy farmers continue to face challenges from prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of conversion of viable agricultural land to nonfarm development. Through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, dairy farms can diversify their operations or transition their farms to the next generation at more affordable costs, while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes. Since early 2018, New York State has awarded more than $30.7 million to dairy farms, protecting 15,102 acres.

New York State is home to nearly 4,000 dairy farms with more than 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks fourth in the production of milk and is first in the nation in the production of other dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese.