With a long-standing program conserving East End farm and natural lands on the ballot next month, local farmers, legislators and East End farm advocates gathered yesterday to urge voters to approve extending it for 20 more years.
Representatives from the Long Island Farm Bureau, Peconic Land Trust and farmers across the East End met at Zaweski Farm in Riverhead, where they called on voters to approve Proposition 1 in November. The measure would extend the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund to 2050 and allow the money to be applied toward water quality programs.
According to the Farm Bureau, the preservation fund has raised more than $1 billion for programs protecting agricultural and natural lands, and preserved more than 10,000 acres in all five East End towns — East Hampton, Shelter Island, Southampton, Southold and Riverhead.
“It’s really important for us all to be out there and make sure that this happens,” said John Halsey, founder and president of the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit land conservation organization. “We can’t take anything for granted. We’re really hoping the public will be out there in support of this.”
Jennifer Pike, 47, who operates Pike Farms in Sagaponack with husband Jim Pike, 60, said the preservation fund helped save their 7.6 acre farm after their landlord told them in 2007 that he intended to sell the land for $11 million.
The trust purchased the land in 2011 and sold it to the Pikes for $167,000. They can keep the farm so long as they maintain certain crops and meet preservation requirements.
Jennifer Pike said she hopes voters approve the measure to extend the fund. “Our bays, waterways and drinking water are like farmland — vitally important and easily lost,” she said.
State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) stressed the importance of passing the proposition on Nov. 8. Thiele said the fund was crucial in preserving water quality and “many, many” acres of land across Long Island’s East End.