Clifton Park farms contribute much of the beautiful scenic and rural vistas of our town’s landscape. The town government of Clifton Park had made many efforts to preserving our rich agricultural heritage through open space preservation efforts, proactive land use planning and partnering with our farms on innovative programs. Town officials work to ensure our agricultural heritage remains a significant part of our community’s future.
Beginning about 1677, the first European families settled along the Mohawk River in what is now known as Clifton Park, establishing small, family farms. Farming was the predominant activity in town, and this industry expanded upon the creation of the Erie Canal. The community remained largely a rural countryside until the mid-1950s – mid-1960s with development of the Northway (I-87), a major transportation investment which spurred the town into suburban development patterns.
Today, the Town of Clifton Park supports local farming and agriculture and has been actively championing farmland protection since the mid-1990s with the adoption of strong farm policies.
In 1994, Clifton Park landowners formed a new agricultural district which demonstrated the support and unity for local farming. The initiative to create this new district helped raise awareness of the development pressures facing farmers. The town zoning code was amended to include broad definitions of farming and agriculture.
The Town of Clifton Park zoning code now defines FARM:
Any parcel of land containing at least five acres which is used in the raising of agricultural products, livestock, poultry and dairy products. It includes necessary farm structures within the prescribed limits and the storage of equipment used, storage of produce and processing and sale of farm produce. It excludes the raising of fur-bearing animals, riding academies, livery or boarding stables and dog kennels.
During this period, Clifton Park’s farmers and town government forged a partnership in creating an annual Farm Fest which is held every September around harvest time. Farm Fest offers the public a wonderful opportunity to visit the participating farms first-hand, and promote agricultural awareness in the community. Parents, children, and visitors of all ages get a chance to see where their food comes from – right in their own backyard.
The Town of Clifton Park has also adopted a Right to Farm Law to state the town’s support for farming. In 1996, the town followed up by adopting a Term Conservation Easement law with an update in 2008 to incorporate its Permanent Conservation Easement Program. Approximately 65 property owners participate in the Term Conservation Program, helping to protect about 2,400 acres of land for terms ranging from 15 to 25 years.
In 2001, the Town of Clifton Park began a public planning process and in 2003, adopted an Open Space Plan which identifies farmland protection as one of the top five priority conservation goals.
The town’s Zoning Code strongly supports farming in Western Clifton Park with the Conservation Residential Zoning District which was adopted in 2005 as an implementation of the Western Clifton Park Land Conservation Plan and GEIS.
Since 2006, three farm families have signed agreements with the Town on placing Permanent Conservation Easements on their lands which involved the Town purchasing and extinguishing the development rights on a total of 187 acres for the following properties:
The private landowners continue to own the land and the properties remain on the tax roll as restricted lands. The Town holds a Deed of Conservation Easement per each farm and reserves the right to enforce said deed. The farmland owners are free to sell their farms in the future, but the Deed of Conservation Easement runs with the title in perpetuity.
Moving forward, the Town of Clifton Park will continue to explore avenues which will assist in preserving the viability of our local farms. Whether examining zoning codes, researching grant opportunities, or sponsoring programs such as this booklet, town officials and staff will keep farming as a major priority in maintaining our rural heritage.