For Kenneth and John Kappus, farming has run in the family's blood in Eden since the 19th century.
A recent agreement struck between the brothers and the Western New York Land Conservancy – with farmland protection assistance from New York State – assures the family’s agricultural legacy will remain on 312 acres of the farm in perpetuity.
The Kappus’ dairy farm, Triple Oak Farms on Shadagee Road, became one of two Eden farms protected among a half-dozen statewide, according to state and land conservancy officials.
The other local farm is D&J Brawdy Farms, on North Boston Road.
John Kappus, the 58-year-old younger brother of the pair, took over the operation of Triple Oak in 1981 and grew the farm from 61 dairy cows on 75 acres to about 280 animals on more than 312 acres today.
Neither plans to retire right away, but the brothers feel secure their family’s legacy – and agricultural land in Eden – will now be protected against development and suburban sprawl.
“We like the idea of it staying in agriculture,” John Kappus said. “Obviously, this takes off a lot of the burden of the money for us.”
The state-funded awards come through the state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program, which is part of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
It awarded $700,000 toward the local farms as part of a nearly $5 million package statewide that also included farms in Central New York and the North Country.
The local land conservancy sought the funding to protect the future of agriculture at the two Eden farms.
Three years ago, the brothers’ farm, Triple Oak, was the subject of an award-winning feature story in The Buffalo News.
At that time, the Kappus brothers feared they could have been the last in a line of Kappuses to run the farm.
Ken’s children have since grown and pursued other careers. John has a 12-year-old daughter who may or may not take over the family farm someday.
But, if she also decides to pursue other interests, the Kappus’ now have a way of preserving what the family started in the 1800s.
“If the Kappus family should ever cease farming this land,” said Ken Kappus, “we know we will be in a position to help a new farm family become established.”
A little farther east in Eden, D&J Brawdy Farms might not be as old as Triple Oak Farms, but the successful vegetable, flower and herb growers are feeling a lot of the same relief as the Kappuses.
Husband and wife Dennis and Joanne Brawdy have owned and operated the 149-acre farm for 11 years.
“We can see a housing subdivision from our office window,” said Dennis Brawdy. “We are relieved that this land, which has been farmed since the 1800s will always be available to meet the agricultural needs of our community.”
And, it made business sense for the farm, which can now reduce debt and re-invest in its operation, Brawdy said.
D&J Brawdy Farms now boasts 13 greenhouses and ranks as “one of the largest producers of grape tomatoes in New York State,” according to the land conservancy.
Land Conservancy officials negotiated perpetual conservation easements with the property owners that protect the land for agricultural uses.
Dubbed the Eden Farmland Protection Program, it’s part of one of several conservancy efforts across the Buffalo Niagara region.
“Farming in Eden is important,” said Nancy Smith, the executive director of the land conservancy. “The monies are invested to help them stay in farming.”
Smith added: “It’s so very important because of the legacy – and the families’ efforts to keep the farms going.”
Missy Hartman, Eden town supervisor, said efforts like these help preserve the town’s character.
“Our farmers are the best caretakers of our land and thanks to this program, we know this important farmland will remain safely in the hands of our farmers for generations to come,” Hartman said.
In 2014, a story in The Buffalo News detailed the progress on farmland preservation in some parts of the region. In the preceding 15 years, the story noted at that time, $12 million or more had already been spent on the preservation of about 3,000 acres of open space and farms in Erie County, numbers from the land conservancy and towns showed then.
Of that money spent, the story in 2014 noted, close to half of the $12 million came from grants from state and federal sources.
Other outlying towns -- including Eden, Marilla and Elma -- were singled out at the time, for also moving in a direction toward preserving farmland, including the use of grant money to help protect the lands.
The Town of Amherst, the News noted at the time, had been the first town to try to preserve and protect farmland, a move which dated back to the late 1990s.
Smith said investments like these and others also help assure food is locally sourced, through our own agricultural bounty.
That not only keeps the proceeds local, but also “reduces the ecological footprint” because of where our food comes from and where we buy it.