BY JOE KUHN
The Rockland County Legislature has taken the first step in securing funding for Cropsey Farm, the largest property maintained by the Rockland Farm Alliance. On Tuesday the legislature voted almost unanimously to allow their purchasing officer to issue a sole source award to Cropsey Farm, which could grant 50,000$ in funding to the struggling site. The decision was met with cheers from a packed audience made up of dozens of community members who have volunteered time and resources to both Cropsey and the wider Farm Alliance.
“Please be our heroes and save the farm alliance” implored one of the many volunteers who came to the meeting to plead on the farm’s behalf. The public participation of the night’s assembly was flooded with farmers who spoke to the legislature about everything Cropsey has to offer the community. John McDowell, an employee of the USDA, told the legislature that Rockland Farm Alliance was one of the first and only programs in the U.S. “to farm municipal land” and is “huge and known across this country” for its stellar reputation. The principle of Willow Grove Elementary School, who “had just came from a gardening project” before speaking, testified that Cropsey has been an invaluable resource for his students. He and several other educators said that volunteering at the farm has taught his students agricultural science, and also instilled them with values like patience and responsibility. A representative for the Stony Point Retreat Center said that Cropsey and the Farm Alliance have bolstered their own efforts to grow organic food. Their partnership with the not for profit has brought farming back to Rockland and provided the community with healthy fresh produce.
Other speakers, and several members of the legislature, pointed out that funding the farm would be less expensive than letting it close. If the Rockland Farm Alliance were to lose control of the property than the county would be obligated to maintain it. Previously the Alliance has been able to sustain Cropsey without using any public money, turning the farm over for county management would create a large and “unnecessary” expense according to legislator Harriet Cornell.
Though the efforts to maintain the farm have received widespread bipartisan support, Legislator Alden Wolfe cautioned the crowd that the process of securing funds will be extended and complicated. As Cropsey missed the October deadline to be included in this year’s budget, funds for the farm will need to be allocated from other programs. “This isn’t over tonight” Wolfe warned, explaining that the legislature must first decide where the money can be taken from and then seek the approval of the County Executive for their final decision. Thankfully for the farm alliance, legislators on both sides of the isle vowed to support the Cropsey and shared their belief that Executive Day would also prioritize funding the farm.