State agriculture tour stops at Indian Ladder

Key speakers at the Indian Ladder Farms press event included New York State Agricultural Commissioner Patrick Hooker, City Harvest director of program development and policy Kate Mackenzi, and Indian Ladder Farms President Peter Ten Eyck.

The press event was followed by a tour of Indian Ladder Farms, where the commissioner got to pick the season's most-anticipated apple, the Honey Crisp, and a lunch buffet featuring several dishes made with all locally grown ingredients donated from farms in the area.

Also at the event Hooker announced that, for the first time, towns and cities in the state will be able to apply for farmland protection planning grants.

Previously, only counties were eligible, but with the new legislation, interested municipalities that are located within a county that has an agricultural and farmland protection board can apply for grants up to $25,000, or 75 percent of the cost of developing a local protection plan.

According to a press release sent out by the state Department of Agriculture, the purpose of the grant program is to provide an economic incentive to municipalities to develop local agricultural and farmland protection plans that will maintain the economic viability of the state's agricultural industry and its supporting land base, and to protect the environmental and landscape preservation values associated with agriculture.

"One of the most important duties granted by the legislature to a municipal government is the authority to undertake comprehensive

planning and to regulate land use, " Hooker said. "Local government

can play a vital role in farmland protection by creating a supportive business environment for agriculture by ensuring that comprehensive plans and land-use regulations contain clear language and explicit policies that are supportive of the local agriculture industry."

Hooker, who has been commissioner for six months, has kept strong ties with Indian Ladder Farms, supporting its mission to educate the public about the economic and nutritional benefits of purchasing organic, locally grown produce.

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