In January 2015, the Town of Amherst and the Western New York Land Conservancy finalized a conservation easement on the 67-acre Monkelbaan Farm on Hopkins Road in Amherst, protecting that land for farming in perpetuity. The farm’s development rights were purchased with $357,120 from a NYS Ag and Markets Farmland Protection Implementation Grant and $75,507 from the Town of Amherst. The property owners also contributed a portion of the easement’s value through a bargain sale of the development rights.
The Monkelbaan Farm has some of the highest quality soils in the region and the highest percentage of prime agricultural soils on any of the agricultural properties in North Amherst being considered for protection. Its fertile soils have supported agriculture for generations and the property was already being farmed when the Monkelbaan family purchased it in 1946. The Monkelbaans operated a dairy farm and later transitioned to growing vegetables. Since the family retired from farming, nearby Spoth Farms has continued to grow corn and wheat on the property. As development pressure in the surrounding community has increased, the Monkelbaans committed to preserving the land in agricultural use.
In addition to its importance to agriculture, the property is also ecologically important. It includes a woodlot, a meadow, and a forested riparian area along Ransom Creek. These natural areas provide habitat for wildlife, but also provide valuable ‘ecosystem services’ for the community. They help maintain water quality in nearby creeks that we use for swimming and fishing, and provide flood control that helps keep our basements dry. With the conservation easement in place, the Monkelbaan Farm will continue to provide these ecosystem services, as well as space for farming and a home for wildlife.
The Monkelbaan Farm conservation easement demonstrates the success of a partnership between a private property owner, a land trust, and a municipality. It is part of a long range effort by the Town and the Land Conservancy to team up with private landowners to protect farmland. This program, known as the Amherst Farmland Protection Program, has protected approximately 800 acres of nearly contiguous farmland. The Monkelbaan Farm is the twelfth conservation easement on farmland to be co-held by the Land Conservancy and the Town of Amherst.