Agricultural District #3

On August 17, 2017, New York State recertified Ulster County Agricultural District #3 per Article 25AA § 303-a (agricultural districts review) of New York State Agriculture and Markets Law.

Maps of Agricultural District #3:

  1. Rochester (central, southeast), Marbletown, Olive and Rosendale
  2. Wawarsing, Rochester (northwest)
  3. Hardenburgh
  4. Municipal Boundaries - Rondout Valley
  5. Topography - Entire District 

The maps above are of the District after completion of its periodic review in July 2017.  The number of tax parcels in an Ulster County agricultural district is very likely to change after its review.  Maps #1, #2 and #3 were created by Ulster County Information Services and submitted to Cornell University's Institute for Resource Information Sciences and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Description of Agricultural District #3

Agricultural District #3 is centered in the Rondout Valley.  Most of the farming in the District occurs in the low-lying area around the Rondout Creek with some of the best soils in New York State. This core area stretches from the southern half of Marbletown, through Rochester and into Wawarsing, ending just before Ellenville. The District has also added more locations outside the low-lying area around the Rondout Creek. Although, these are areas located outside the traditional core area of agriculture in the District, they illustrate the overall health of Agricultural District #3.

One example of this activity includes agriculture in Hardenburgh. Part of a farm entered Agricultural District #3 in 2004 with another section added as recently as 2012. These parcels were included in Agricultural District #3 for administrative reasons, as they are located well outside the Rondout Valley.

Closer to the Rondout Valley, in the higher elevations around it, Agricultural District #3 has a concentration of parcels in Wawarsing. These parcels are found along Wawarsing’s mountainous border with the Towns of Neversink and Fallsburg in Sullivan County.  These agricultural lands are in close proximity to farms in Sullivan County.  Together, they form a small agricultural region of their own. (Most of the land within an agricultural district in Sullivan County lies farther to the west, between State Route 17 and the border with Pennsylvania.)

Agricultural District #3 added many parcels as annual additions in these upland areas away from the Rondout Valley.  These upland areas include all towns in the District.  Of the 50 tax parcels included into the District since its last review in 2006, only five are in the low-lying area around the Rondout Creek.  Some of these 50 parcels belonged to existing farms with land already in the agricultural district. Most, however, had agricultural operations with no existing relationship with the New York State Certified Agricultural District Program. 

The farms that sought inclusion into the agricultural district program for the first time represent a variety of agriculture.  Some horse boarding operations entered the agricultural district after a change to New York State law in 2011 that recognized them as farms.  Along both sides of the border with the Towns of Rochester and Olive, parcels encompassing a 635 acre area were included within the last decade, with operations focusing on haying and livestock.  Olive didn’t have any parcels in Agricultural District #3 until recently.  Wawarsing has also seen parcels added into the agricultural district after years of routinely seeing none with new farms focusing on niche markets for goat milk products and mushrooms requesting inclusion.  In Rosendale, the New York State Thruway split a property in the early 1950s that had a dairy farm.  In 2015, the four parcels composing the western half of this property were included into the agricultural district.   Activities are now underway to get a maple syrup business operational, along with plans for a livestock operation focusing on pigs, sheep, goats and rabbits. In these upland areas, tax parcels entering the agricultural district were generally properties where farming was being introduced, if not for the first time, then after a hiatus.

The Rondout Valley has long had important connections to the wider region. In the 19th Century, the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal ran alongside the Rondout Creek, connecting Pennsylvania to the Hudson River by way of Sullivan and Ulster Counties.  The demand for Pennsylvania coal in the major cities of New York State and beyond was the impetus for the D&H Canal’s construction.  However, other industries in the Rondout Valley benefitted, since the D&H Canal facilitated movement of bluestone, lumber and agricultural products to various markets beyond the Valley.  Towns and hamlets formed along the D&H Canal during its heyday because of economic opportunities.  In time the movement of goods was supplanted by the Kingston Branch of the New York, Ontario & Western (O&W) Railroad.  By the time this branch of the O&W Railroad went defunct in the late 1950s, State Route 209, which runs alongside the Rondout Creek in the Rondout Valley, connected with the newly built New York State Thruway.

Currently, organizations that provide services to farms and farmers are located around State Route 209.   In Wawarsing, outside of Ellenville and not far from Route 209, a dairy distributor is a licensed farm products dealer through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.  Nearby, a farm offers permaculture education to school and community groups. Going north on Route 209, into Rochester, a seed library sells heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. Also in Rochester, within the Hamlet of Accord, a meat processor specializes in grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free and hormone-free meat, and its suppliers are farms from across the region.  This business is expanding and will soon open facilities in Marbletown, within the Hamlet of Stone Ridge.

Agricultural District #3 is bordered on the north by Agricultural District #4 and the Lower Esopus Valley.  The agricultural services industry has also grown in Agricultural District #4 within the last few years, particularly along Route 209.  Together, these agricultural districts provide protection for lands along the Rondout and Esopus Creeks, with this reach extending into adjoining upland areas.

Location has long made Agricultural District #3 and the Rondout Valley viable for agriculture.  To the longtime benefit of the District’s farms, it not only has great soils and various resources, but region-wide access to consumers, too.

Contact Burt Samuelson of the Ulster County Planning Department with questions at (845) 339-2490 or bsam[at]co.ulster.ny[dot]us