Following is some exciting news from the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) about a recently established conservation easement to help a local farmer preserve a rare breed of purebred cattle.
Cynthia Creech first established Artemis Farm more than 31 years ago in Tennessee. At the time, there were only 16 Randall cattle remaining in the country. She moved the farm north to 120 acres in New Lebanon so the critically endangered cows—first developed in Vermont and descended from the local cattle common in 19th-century New England could be in a climate more suited to their breed.
Now, thanks to a partnership between the Columbia Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson and Equity Trust, and with funding from Equity Trust, Scenic Hudson, the State of New York’s Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program, and the USDA’s Agricultural Land Easement program, Cynthia Creech’s Artemis Farm will continue providing a home for critically endangered Randall cattle.
Cynthia is passionate about conserving this breed: “Preservation of the Randall Cattle, and all heritage breeds of livestock, is important as it provides several benefits to our everyday world. They are the connection in civilization to livestock history and heritage. Because they have not been manipulated by humans through single trait selection, these animals carry a full complement of characteristics and genes. In the event of a catastrophic failure in the livestock industry, those characteristics and genes would be of value to re-establish breeds and herds.
The Randalls exhibit old world traits…they are hardy, long lived, thrifty, able to eat grass,
weeds, leaves, acorns, raise a calf and live 20 years. These characteristics make them perfect for the returning small, diversified farms today. And, if a person does not need, or want, to follow a large, commercial, or industrial livestock paradigm on their farm, the Randalls, and all heritage breeds, provide an interesting and capable animal to share farm life with. While the conservation easement does not guarantee someone will continue to farm with the Randall Cattle, it does guarantee that a struggling farmer, like me, will have affordable farmland available to them, land that will not be sucked up and ruined for farming by development, land on which someone can start out with their dream of owning a farm and raising their livestock on it. Equity Trust, Columbia Land Conservancy and Scenic Hudson have made this possible going forward. I am genuinely grateful to all three of these remarkable organizations for the work they have done for me, for the Randall Cattle and for what they are doing for all farmers of the future. It is noble work.”
Since the cattle made their journey north in 2004, Cynthia has been responsible for growing the population to over 300 cattle. She’s worked with more than 20 herds, both large and small, and has sold single cows to homesteaders looking for a sturdy house milk and/or beef cow. In 2000, she was honored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory with an award for heritage breed conservation. She also supplies grass-fed beef to consumers via local farmers markets.
In addition to preserving the breed, Cynthia also wanted to make sure her land would continue to be part of the important fabric of Columbia County’s agricultural heritage. She worked with multiple partners and funders to place a conservation easement on her land, which will protect the property from future development. In addition, she also worked with partners to enhance this land protection tool with resale restrictions that ensure the property will always remain in agricultural production, and affordable for farmers. Funds for the resale restrictions were contributed by Equity Trust., which also provided financing from its Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Fund to secure a portion of the land until it was protected.
“The Columbia Land Conservancy is grateful to all of our project partners and funders for the deeply collaborative effort that resulted in the protection of this important farm. Thanks to their help, and the long-term vision of Cynthia Creech, the land will remain not only protected from development, but in the hands of farmers into the future,” said Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter Paden.
“Scenic Hudson is delighted to collaborate with Columbia Land Conservancy, Equity Trust, the state and USDA—and, of course, Cynthia Creech—to protect land critical for sustaining her visionary work to bring back Randall cattle, almost from the point of extinction. In addition to preserving an important aspect of our nation’s heritage, working farms like Artemis are essential to the Hudson Valley’s future because they supply us with healthy food, safeguard important habitat, and contribute so much to the region’s natural beauty,” said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust.
“Equity Trust is very pleased to have been able to join the other project partners and Cynthia Creech to ensure that Artemis Farm will remain a working farm forever. Our Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program was set up to support exactly this outcome: the preservation of farms that feed our communities in a way that keeps them affordable to the farmers who do the hard work of growing that food,” said Jim Oldham, Executive Director of Equity Trust.
Artemis Farm was ranked a high priority for protection in Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed
Conservation Plan, a data-driven blueprint for ramping up collaborative farmland-protection efforts to create a secure source of fresh, local food for the Hudson Valley and New York City. Scenic Hudson used funds from its Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment to contribute to conserving the farm.