Roxbury Farm and Secure Land Access

Roxbury Farm and Equity Trust

Jean-Paul started Roxbury Farm in 1990 in Claverack, NY on the Cashen Farm.  The farm is still an organic farm today called the Farm at Miller's Crossing.  In 2000, Roxbury Farm moved to a 150 acre farm in Kinderhook.  Equity Trust, a land trust and organization focused on equity and access to land and housing for people of all socioeconomic levels, purchased the 150 acres, a barn, and a farmhouse.  Roxbury Farm CSA members raised enough money through private and foundation donations to cover the cost of the land purchase. 

Equity Trust created a 99-year ground lease for Roxbury Farm.  The ground lease states that the land can only leased by an active farmer making a high percentage of their income from food production on the land.  The lease rate is set at a price a farmer can afford. Jody purchased the house and the barn but not the land underneath.  The house was priced at the rate of a farm house in a rural community not at local home values.   Roxbury Farm also has the right to make other improvements on the land (new barns, fencing, underground irrigation, farm employee housing, etc.)  Roxbury Farm owns these improvements.  In order to keep the housing and infrastructure affordable for the next farmer, there is a re-sale restriction on the house and barns.  It will be assessed at agricultural values not at the social appreciation of housing in this area of upstate NY.   

When the present farmers are ready to retire, they have the right to choose the next farmer.  This new farmer must meet the agreed upon qualifications set in the lease.  The new farmer must also purchase the house and other infrastructure.  It is important that we can choose the person to take over our farm as our goal is to pass on the whole farm and business to this new farmer(s). Click here to look at Equity Trust’s Model Ground Lease.

Roxbury Farm and Open Space Institute

Open Space Institute, an organization that protects and preserves open space, is another key partner for Roxbury Farm.  OSI purchased the development rights on all of the land Roxbury Farm owns or leases.  This reduces the purchase price of the land making it affordable for Roxbury Farm. 

In 2000, Open Space Institute purchased 100 acres of land that was the former Martin Van Buren farm. (Van Buren was the 8th president).  The National Park Service, Open Space Institute, Roxbury Farm's lawyer, Paul Freeman, Jean-Paul and Jody together wrote a strict easement for this land in order to protect the historical, scenic, and agricultural aspects of this property.  Jean-Paul own’s this land.

Since then, OSI, has purchased an additional 210 acres surrounding the Van Buren estate.  OSI retains the development rights and has sold the land to Jean-Paul.  On 10 acres of the property Roxbury Farm has the right to build new infrastructure for the vegetable operation and a farm house.  This gives Roxbury Farm the additional security it needs to move into the future.

Both OSI and Equity Trust understand the importance of farmer housing and infrastructure.  A farm needs more than just land to be successful.  By allowing development on a few key areas of the farm, OSI and Equity Trust ensured that future farmers have the flexibility they need to keep the farm successful. Click here to read more about OSI’s work.

Roxbury Farm and the National Park Service at the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

Roxbury Farm leases 20 acres of farmland and buildings from the NPS.  These buildings are the heart of the farm.  Roxbury Farm washes, packs, sorts, and store their vegetables in the main barn.  The building complex also has a machine shop, two greenhouses, an office, and storage buildings for equipment and supplies.

Roxbury Farm has a lease on the buildings and the land until 2026.  Which is not long enough.  In order to maintain and improve infrastructure Roxbury Farm needs long term security.  In addition, improving soil organically takes many years.  Soil fertility was also a huge concern for Martin Van Buren and farmers in his day.  Making Roxbury Farm a perfect partner for this National Park.  

The NPS and Roxbury Farm continue to work on a new model for land tenure agreements between an active farm and the NPS.