Once the bread basket of New York City, agricultural activity in Westchester County saw a steady decline between 1983 and 1994 when nearly 4,000 acres, or 36 percent of farmland, as defined by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Law, were lost. The environmental benefits and landscape preservation values associated with agriculture are worthy of protection. Once lost, these are not replaceable. The socio-economic vitality of agriculture in this county is essential to the economic stability and growth of many local communities and the county as a whole.
It is the policy of the county to conserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of its agricultural land for production of food and other agricultural products. It is also the policy of the county to conserve and protect agricultural lands as valued natural and ecological resources, which provide needed open spaces for clean air and water, as well as for open space. To learn more about how agriculture benefits Westchester, read our brochure, "Agriculture! Westchester County's Best Kept Secret."
Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board
In response to this loss of farmland, the Westchester County Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) was created in 1999 by act of the County Board of Legislature (BOL) pursuant to New York State Agriculture & Markets Law. The AFPB includes representatives from Westchester's agricultural industry, and its mission is to maintain the economic viability and the environmental and landscape preservation values associated with agriculture. The AFPB meets the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. at Muscoot Farm Park in Somers, unless otherwise noticed. Meetings are open to the public. The AFPB sponsors a workshop each year focusing on information of interest to farm owners and others interested in agriculture. This year’s main topic is agricultural districts.
Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan
The Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan, adopted in 2004 by the BOL, characterizes the agricultural industry in Westchester as consisting predominantly of commercial horse boarding and other equine related activities, although the horticulture industry is also very prosperous. Traditional fruit, vegetable and other crops follow along with Christmas tree farms. The AFPB works on implementing the recommendations included in the plan, which includes developing a public outreach program, assisting local municipalities to plan for agriculture, and supporting Westchester County’s current and future agricultural entrepreneurs.
New York State Agricultural Districts help to protect and preserve land under active agricultural production or which could be used for agricultural production. New York State’s Agricultural Districts Law seeks to create economic and regulatory incentives which encourage farmers to continue farming. The Westchester County Agricultural District was created in 2001 with an eight-year review period. In 2010, after two years of review, the BOL, upon recommendations included in a report prepared by the AFPB, modified the district by limiting the district to eight Westchester municipalities and creating criteria for farms included in the district. The modified district was recertified by the state on Sept 19, 2011 with 70 farms comprising over 6,600 acres of land. Since then, over 800 additional acres have been added to the district. View a map and list of properties in the current district. Every January, land owners may petition the County Board of Legislators to add land to the district. An application form and fact sheet on the agricultural district and the application process are available along with a brochure from the state.
Notice: The Westchester Agricultural District is currently under review for recertification before the anniversary date of July 19, 2017. The public is invited to submit comments to the Westchester County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) care of the Westchester County Department of Planning, Room 432, 148 Martine Avenue, White Plains, NY, 10601 or by email to David Kvinge, Director of Environmental Planning at . Use the information linked above to learn more about Westchester’s agricultural district. The AFPB will be preparing a report on the status of the current district and making recommendations to the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) concerning the district. The BOL will hold a public hearing before making recommendations to the New York State Commissioner of Agriculture, who authorizes the recertification.
The County Soil and Water Conservation District, staffed through the County Department of Planning, prepares Soil Group Worksheets for property owners seeking to obtain agricultural assessments for their farms. Property owners must delineate the agricultural, non-agricultural and farm woodland portions of their property on an aerial map and complete an application form. The County will prepare the Soil Group Worksheet, which the property owner must submit to the local tax assessor along with their application for an agricultural assessment. Go to the Soil Group Work sheet application and instruction sheet. More information on the agricultural assessment program is available from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
The AFPB holds an annual meeting to provide education and information of interest to those interested in agriculture. Download the fliers and presentations.
The East of Hudson Program of the Watershed Agricultural Council assists farm owners in the watershed of the New York City drinking water with best management practices for agriculture and forestry.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has information on the variety of programs that they administer, including farmland protection and agricultural districts.
The Small Farms program at Cornell has a wealth of information for persons owning or interested in starting a small farm.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association has information on organic farming as well as links to other resources and grant programs.
The American Farmland Trust has information on the value of agriculture to our communities and how to keep agriculture growing.
New York Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces Oct. 16, 2015 as the application cutoff date for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Through the EQIP program, NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to participants to implement practices which address priority resource concerns, including soil erosion, water quality and habitat degradation. Focus areas within the EQIP program include soil management, headquarters, habitat, forestry and grazing. Examples of practices implemented through EQIP include: strip cropping, grassed waterways, forest stand improvement and manure storage facilities. Download the program brochure.