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Half Of County's New Agricultural Districts In Cortlandt

CORTLANDT, N.Y. – The Westchester Board of Legislators added four Cortlandt parcels to New York State’s Agricultural District program: Manitou Farm, Boyle Tree Farm, Cortlandt Manor Stables and Chicory Meadow Farm.

"It's kind of one those eras, that it's like disappearing," said Frank Conklin, co-owner of Cortlandt Manor Stables, with wife, Liz Conklin. Together, the pair completely renovated the former "Circle P" stables and board 10 horses with capacity for eight more.

Between 1983 and 1994, nearly 4,000 acres or 36 percent of Westchester County's farmland was lost, according to county officials. To stymie the loss, the county became the first participant in the state's agricultural district program. The program benefits agricultural operations by exempting them from some local ordinances, which may be deemed unreasonably restrictive and may allow some operations to be taxed at a lower rate.

A total of eight parcels were added to the agricultural districts on Sept. 17. The state program is administered by the county.

Christine Varella, owner of Chicory Meadow Farm, located on Jack Road in Cortlandt Manor, said she's hoping admission into the program can help her horse boarding operation survive in notoriously pricey Westchester County.  

"I don't have big rolling fields and everything these horses eat I have to pay for, and horses eat a lot," Varella said.

"It's definitely helpful to be in the agricultural district in order to survive," said Frank Conklin. Both Conklin and his neighbor across Montrose Station Road, the Boyle Tree Farm, became part of the agricultural district. Conklin said membership in the agricultural district changes the way he can address signage for his horse boarding operation, and said he's hoping to eventually offer lessons at Cortlandt Manor Stables.

Agricultural district inductees said, as most small business owner agree, boredom is never an option.

"It's fun. We've always got something to do, but I haven't been on vacation in over 17 years, not even for like a weekend getaway," said Varella.

“Whether the properties are used for farming crops, dairy production or raising horses, they all contribute to Westchester’s special character and prosperity through agribusiness," said County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers), chair of board’s Environment and Energy Committee, where the legislation for the additions to the agricultural district was first introduced.

While the Agricultural District does not enable its members to obtain grants or government funding as individuals, the county may apply for state grants on behalf of the farms.

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