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Another large swath of land in North Amherst will forever remain farmland.

The Town of Amherst and Western New York Land Conservancy finalized a deal last week to buy the development rights for 67 acres at 3155 Hopkins Road – the latest acquisition in the town’s farmland protection program.

The deal allows the owner, Marie Monkelbann, to keep the property, but the land must be forever used for agriculture. In return, the Monkelbann family received $432,627.

More than three-quarters of that money was funded by a farmland protection grant from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The town paid the rest.

“This purchase of development rights protects one of our most important farmland resources and a key element of that program,” said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

Faced with continued development pressure, Amherst started the area’s first farmland protection program in the late 1990s and since then has preserved nearly 800 acres of farmland in its north country.

Over the years, the program has paid nine property owners a total of $3.9 million for the development rights to 16 parcels, according to town figures. Grants covered at least 75 percent of the cost.

The Monkelbann purchase, however, signals a bit of a shift in the Amherst program. Weinstein has indicated the town will try to negotiate a bargain rate on any future deals in hopes that a reduced price would cover the 25 percent town match needed to obtain grant funding.

The Western New York Land Conservancy partners with the town and is tasked with monitoring the properties to ensure they are protected in perpetuity.

The Monkelbann Farm has some of the highest quality soils in the region, according to the conservancy.

The property was already being farmed when the family purchased it in 1946. The Monkelbaans operated a dairy farm and later grew vegetables on the land. Since the family retired from farming, the nearby Spoth Farms has continued to grow corn and wheat on the property.

In addition to its importance for farming, the Monkelbann property is ecologically significant by providing flood control and maintaining water quality in nearby creeks, said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy.

“With the conservation easement in place, the Monkelbaan Farm will continue to provide these ecosystem services, as well as space for farming and a home for wildlife,” Smith said.

email: jrey@buffnews.com

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