Northumberland sheep farm preserved

Monday, January 21, 2013
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Gwen Hinman shears a sheep during the annual Shearing Day at Foster Sheep Farm in Northcumberland on Sunday.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Gwen Hinman shears a sheep during the annual Shearing Day at Foster Sheep Farm in Northcumberland on Sunday.

— Tom Foster’s 128-acre sheep farm will never sprout condos or box stores.

“I’ve worked hard on this land all my life,” he said. “My parents did the same. I know my children will carry on.”

It’s not just the family farm ethic that will keep the land pure. It’s the law. Sunday afternoon, Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature announced the permanent conservation of the Foster Sheep Farm.

The Fosters recently entered into a binding contract with Saratoga PLAN that prohibits any commercial or residential development.

They still own and pay taxes on the land, and can farm whatever they want. The contract just ensures the farm stays a farm, even if it leaves the family.

“Saratoga County has been the fastest-growing county in New York state,” said Katie Petronis, chairwoman of Saratoga PLAN. “It makes sense to protect those areas of the county with good soils and good farmers.”

Conserving the land wasn’t as simple as just signing a contract.

Boundary surveys, appraisals, title insurance and legal fees brought the price tag of conservation to $367,000.

Half of that came from U.S. Department of Agriculture grants, another big chunk from Saratoga County’s Farmland and Open Space Program, and the rest brought in by private donations.

Conservation as it turns out can be expensive, but local dairy farmer Bill Peck said keeping the Foster farm free of development is worth the effort.

“I know the farm is in good hands,” he said. “I’ve watched Tom’s dad and now Tom and Carole with their children Abby and Greg care for the land.”

The public attended the shearing of the Foster’s award-winning herd Sunday, and even helped sort and clean the fleeces.

“When I gaze over our flock grazing on nutritious pasture,” Foster said, “it gives me a sense of great fulfillment to have completed this project.”

The Foster farm is on West River Road in Northumberland in Saratoga County.

For more information on PLAN visit,

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