Cortlandt, Yorktown, Westchester and State Preserve Hemlock Hill Farm

Three levels of government teamed up to keep Hemlock Hill Farm from development and protect drinking water supply.

County and town governments have teamed up with the state to keep the 118-acre , located in the towns of Cortlandt and Yorktown, protected from being developed. 

After five years of negotiations, Westchester County officials signed an agreement with the farm’s owner, John DeMaria, last month to purchase the conservation easement for the land, which is within the Croton Reservoir watershed. The contract prevents development on the land – allowing operation of the farm and protection of the watershed long into the future.

"A sizable New York State grant allowed the county, Yorktown and Cortlandt to combine resources and purchase the conservation easement," County Executive Robert P. Astorino said. "This protects our drinking water supply and preserves one of a diminishing number of privately owned operational farms in Westchester."

Hemlock Hill Farm is the first property in Westchester to receive funding through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. State funding in the amount of $2 million provided the major portion of the total $2.7 million value of the easement. The county contributed $341,250 and each of the towns gave $170,625 to protect the Farm.

Hemlock Hill Farm has been in operation since 1939. In the course of the 45 years that DeMaria has owned the farm, he has worked closely with the Watershed Agricultural Council, the public-private agency that advises farm owners on environmental improvements that help to protect the drinking water supply of New York City and portions of Westchester.

“This is a clear example of county government working together with our local municipalities and New York State to benefit the taxpayer by a continuation of protecting farmland, preserving the open space and enhancing the quality of life,” said County Legislator John Testa of Peekskill.

Yorktown Supervisor Susan Siegel said the town is happy the state funding has been approved to protect the property.

"Hemlock Hills is a rare and wonderful example of Yorktown and Cortlandt’s agricultural heritage," she said. "I’m glad that working together, we are able to preserve it."

Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi thanked former Gov. George Pataki, whose administration had negotiated this deal in its closing days.

"This is another way that local, county and state levels of government can work together for the betterment of the community," she said.

The Town of Cortlandt will preserve 90 acres of this land for open space preservation and 10 acres for the De Maria family to continue farming as they have for 50 years, she said.

"Protecting our town's natural beauty and open space, such as Hemlock Farm, has been and continues to be one of Yorktown's greatest priorities," Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy said. "While we continue to develop Northern Westchester to provide jobs for our neighbors it becomes equally as necessary to protect our open space and natural resources."

The farm, open to the public, allows residents to experience and learn about agriculture first hand. Its fresh local farm products (chickens, beef, pork, lamb, Italian sausages, smoked bacon, eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream and honey) can be purchased from its market, which is open seven days a week. 

The preservation of Hemlock Hill as a working farm is one of the county's efforts to protect farmland:

  • The county formed an Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board in 1999 and adopted an Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan in 2004.
  • In 2003, the county acquired Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown and established an Environmental Resource Center to provide education and training on sustainable living practices.
  • In April, at the initiative of the Astorino administration, the county’s Board of Acquisition and Contract approved a three-year agreement with Friends of Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center for the use of that property for farming, environmental programs and fundraising. The goal is to give the non-profit Friends group three years to make the farm self-sufficient.
  • The county’s Muscoot Farm Park, a working interpretive farm and park in Somers, has received national awards, including a Heritage Advocate Award this year from the Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its efforts to educate the public about the risks to and the protection and care of historic collections.
Bill Kellner July 29, 2011 at 03:30 AM
I urge all Patch readers to visit the store at the Hemlock Hill Farm and try the locally raised meats and fresh produce. It's at the intersection of Maple and Croton Aves. in Cortlandt Manor
Pete S July 29, 2011 at 04:27 AM
a friend of mine was working theer to open more patures and i visited him on my lunch break recently. I grew up in Peekskill and been to the farm for many different things; from pigs to manure and also to hit golf balls. i also have a boat on the reservoir. Hemlock farms has been there longer than ive been alive and my grandfather also bought animals from them. there is not enough farms in the united states and i can say from my time being there , there is nothing more beautiful and inspirational than being there to look at the real beauty of the land. let me not forget to mention how hard it is to be a farmer of many different things. if you think life is hard go spend a day working there for them and you will see what a hard days labor is all about, ( suggestion, if your children are into video games this is the place to bring them for a real life lesson. i met the owner and talke with him and I have the umost respect for what he and the workers do. thanks for the invite brad
bob July 29, 2011 at 03:43 PM
the farm is nice but no mention of the overnight camping parties, open burning to roast pigs,parking and rental charges,poor sanitation for hundreds of people,fireworks.alchol consumption,loud amplified music.,horns blaring, all from non-residents every weekend ...is that puglisi's type of farming
Lloyd Braun July 29, 2011 at 06:54 PM
I personally don't see how the noise and nonsense that goes on there could be classified as "natural beauty". If we're all for promoting local agriculture, then why are neighbors and town officials giving the Muro family such a hard time for wanting to farm on Croton Avenue? I'd buy any locally grown produce, meat, or eggs from Dan Muro before I would buy them from Demaria.
Marijane Grassie April 28, 2013 at 02:09 AM
My great Aunt and Uncle started this farm. My cousin John with his daughter still tend this farm. They are hard working farm people, honest, and love the land. My cousin once told his mother, ' Mom I love this farm, holding a blade of grass in his had, he told her. Up one side and down the other. My happiest times were being on the farm growing up. During difficult years I would go there walk up in to the Hemlocks, look over the land, the barns and animals, and my problems seem to go away. As this land made me realize just what was important in life. Anyone who can criticize the hard work my family has done to preserve this beautiful farm, does not understand how difficult it is to keep a farm going today. The DeMaria family have put their life into this land, and continue to do so today.May this land continue to be part of my own heritage, and there for many years to come. Mj


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