Agriculture In the Town

Prior to World War II, agriculture was a major economic sector and the predominant land use in the Town of Ithaca.  Despite the formidable barriers to farming presented by terrain, soils, and the climate, the Town produced and exported significant amounts of wheat and other agricultural products beginning around 1800.  Throughout the 19th Century, potatoes, hay, tobacco, grain, fruit, and dairy and meat products were sent to market from numerous Town farms.  Although agriculture in the Town has declined since the end of World War II, it is still the predominant land use in several portions of the Town. 

Farmland, and the farmers who work the land, contribute to the well-being of all Town residents.  In addition to the direct contribution to the local economy through production and employment, local farmers also make significant indirect contributions to the local economy through the purchase of equipment and supplies and through their relatively low demands on the costly public infrastructure.  The rural character of the Town – enjoyed by Town residents and essential to the local tourist industry – is provided largely by local farmers and the State Parks.  Perhaps most importantly, farmers in the Town of Ithaca have established a tradition of stewardship of the land and its resources. 

Agriculture in the Town of Ithaca reflects agriculture in the region.  Even though the number of farms is relatively small (approximately 24 farms), agriculture in the Town is surprisingly diverse.  Enterprises include dairies, vineyards and wineries, direct-marketed produce (via area farmers markets, U-pick tree fruit and vegetable crops, farm markets, or roadside stands), field crops, forest crops, landscaping and nursery stock, Christmas trees, greenhouses, horses, beef, chickens, fiber products, orchards, and a CSA.

Town Farming Facts

Town Farming Numbers (from 2011):

  • Approximately 3,412 acres of agricultural lands in the Town
  • Total value of agricultural products is approximately $4,431,000
  • Town farms employ at least 27 full-time, 39 part-time, and 25 seasonal workers
  • Crops include: hay (717 – 787 acres), corn (363 acres), vegetables (203 acres), small grains (183 acres), landscaping (91 acres), orchard (25 acres), and vineyard (5 acres)
  • Other lands part of the farms include: woods (668 acres), pasture (185 acres), and tillable fallow (51 acres)
  • 40,000 square feet of greenhouses
  • Cornell has approximately 870 acres in vegetable and field crops, orchards, pasture, dairy, and greenhouses in the Town
  • Livestock includes: dairy bulls (300), dairy heifers (247), dairy cows (200), chickens – layers (148), goats, sheep, alpacas (47), beef (30), horses (12), and hogs (6)

A Diversity of Enterprises:

  • Dairy
  • Vineyard and Winery
  • U-Pick Fruit and Berry Crops
  • Field Crops
  • Landscape and Nursery Stock
  • Forest Crops
  • Christmas Trees
  • Orchards
  • Farm Markets
  • Greenhouses
  • Roadside Stands
  • Equine
  • Education / Research
  • Beef Livestock
  • Chickens
  • Fiber Goats, Alpacas, and Sheep
  • Apiary
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Agricultural Land Preservation

The Town of Ithaca established its Agricultural Land Preservation Program in 1999 for the purpose of protecting its agricultural land resources for future generations by purchasing development rights (PDR) on key farm parcels in the Town.  It is a voluntary program through which the Town Board, on behalf of all Town residents, would purchase from willing sellers the development rights, or conservation easements, limiting the uses and development potential of key agricultural parcels.  Participation in the program enables farmers to continue farming their land.  It will help farmers stay in business by providing needed capital, and it relieves development pressures by ensuring that development will not encroach onto participating farm parcels.  The primary benefit of this type of easement program is that the properties remain under the ownership and stewardship of the private landowners. 

The Town adopted the voluntary PDR program as a long-term commitment.  Approximately 3,500 acres of farmland in the Town of Ithaca are recommended for PDR.  Since the start of the program, the Town has been setting aside funds in an Open Space Reserve account for the PDR program.

Additional Information

In 2003, the Town obtained its first agricultural conservation easement through PDR on a 40-acre parcel of active farmland on Sheffield Road, which is currently operated as part of the Laughing Goat Fiber Farm. The property contains approximately 30 acres of active farmland and 10 acres of mixed woods and shrub growth.  The owners rent a portion of the property to another local farmer for hay and themselves use the northern portion of the property for their Angora goats, Cashmere goats, Alpacas, and sheep.  They specialize in home-grown exotic fibers and create original hand-made fiber goods (blankets, rugs, shawls, scarves, and other items).  Scenic views over the property are visible from Sheffield Road looking east toward East Hill areas of the Town of Ithaca and beyond.

In September 2014, the Town completed its second agricultural conservation easement on the 42-acre Indian Creek Farm property.  This permanent easement was purchased through the assistance of the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, with funding under its Farmland Protection Implementation Grants program.  The farm consists of U-pick fruits and vegetables, a roadside stand, and original nursery sales.  The farm is located only 2 miles from downtown Ithaca on Trumansburg Road and is open from spring to late fall (from dawn to dusk).  This property enjoys terrific views to the east and contains a portion of Indian Creek in the wooded area along the northern edge of the farm. In addition to the fruits and vegetables grown, Indian Creek Farm also grafts and grows over 500 varieties of fruit trees (Cummins Nursery).

Agricultural Zoning

The Town of Ithaca’s Agricultural Zone currently contains approximately 4,235 acres (24% of the total zoning). The purpose of the Agricultural Zone is to assure a proper economic and physical environment for continued agricultural use of land and other nonextractive natural resource land uses; to maintain an open rural character to viable agricultural areas; to assure compatible types and densities of development on lands that are usable for agricultural pursuits; and to minimize other land uses incompatible with farming. 

The Agricultural Zone does include a specific “right-to-farm” provision (Section 270-39 of Town Code).  The provision is to help warn landowners in the Agricultural Zone that the primary intention of the zone is to permit sound agricultural practices. 

Protection Plan

“The Town of Ithaca recognizes that agriculture is an integral part of the Town’s economy and environment, provides locally grown food and other agricultural products, and enhances the quality of life for Town residents. The Town proactively promotes a diversity of farm types, seeks the long-term preservation of the Town’s agricultural-land resources, supports the economic viability of the farming community and the profitability of each farm, values the local public agricultural research and educational resources, and encourages the general public to understand and support local agriculture.”

Above is the Vision Statement that was developed for the Town of Ithaca’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan.  This Plan outlines specific goals, recommendations and implementation steps that will help achieve this vision.  The Plan also includes background information on agriculture in the Town along with existing agricultural resources, maps, and other pertinent information.  The Plan was adopted by the Town of Ithaca Town Board and the Tompkins County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board in November 2011. 

Local Farms & Products

On this page, you will be able to locate providers of Town of Ithaca agricultural products.  An alphabetical list of farms is provided below.  Please take time to review each farm and connect to their websites for additional information. Please note that not every farm in the Town of Ithaca has chosen to participate on our website at this time.  To add or update your farm listing, please contact Michael Smith, Senior Planner, at 607-273-1747.

Local Farms & Products

A.J. Teeter Farm

Owners / Managers Name:
Alan & Debbie Teeter

Address / Location:
71 Gray Road, Ithaca, NY 14850

Phone:
607-277-4547

Email:
AJTeeterFarm@msn.com

Farm Website:
www.AJTeeterFarm.com

Season:
year-round for Gardener’s Skin Balm, beef primarily in the fall, September and October for hayrides, February for vegetable seedling orders with an April-May delivery

Days / Hours Open:
varies, and by appointment

Products Available:

  • Fall foliage hayrides
  • grass-fed beef by the half of split-half
  • Gardener’s Skin Balm

Additional Information:
A.J. Teeter Farm is the oldest family farm in the Town of Ithaca. We were one of the first CSA (Community Support Agriculture) farms in the county, and only gave that up, regretfully, when we assumed responsibility for the entire farm and those responsibilities no longer allowed for the time needed to run a CSA. We continued to grow our own vegetable seedlings for transplant and have been a regular vendor at the Annual Ithaca Plant Sale for many years. Starting in 2013, we will offer Custom Transplants, adapting a CSA model, to provide a wider range of varieties as well as the exact quantities of the varieties our customers want. If this intrigues you, please contact us and we will be in touch after the first of the year.

Kestrel Perch Berries

Owners / Managers Name:
Katie Creeger

Address / Location:
EcoVillage, Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca NY 14850

Phone:
607-275-0272

Email:
ithacaberries@gmail.com

Farm Website:
www.ithacaberries.com

Season:
June through September

Days / Hours Open:
varies; see website or email for details

Products Available:

  • Strawberries
  • blueberries
  • red raspberries
  • red and black currants
  • gooseberries
  • elderberries

Additional Information:
Kestrel Perch’s primary focus is a U-pick CSA (season memberships). U-pick is also available on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis to subscribers to the Kestrel Perch PAYG listserv; please email for information

The Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming: New Farmer Training Programs

Owners / Managers Name:
Liz Coakley, Incubator Farm & Business Manager

Address / Location:

  • Office: 225 S Fulton Street, Ithaca
  • Incubator Farm: 100 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca

Phone:
607-319-5095

Email:
info@groundswellcenter.org

Farm Website:
www.groundswellcenter.org

Season:
year-round

Days / Hours Open:
Groundswell’s office is temporarily closed due to COVID. Feel free to contact us at info @ groundswellcenter.org. The farm is normally open for public tours and a volunteer event the first Thursday evening of each month during the growing season, from 5:30-7:30 pm. This event is on hold for the time being.

Products Available:
Groundswell offers beginning farmer training and food system education. Our programs include the Incubator Farm Business Program, Farm Tours, Food Justice Training, Farm Business Planning Course, Farmer Technical Courses, and one-on-one consultations for farmers and food entrepreneurs. Please contact us about your farming interests. Groundswell also hosts an online Event Calendar or regional farming & food events and Classified listings at www.groundswellcenter.org.

HoneyRock Farm, LLC

Owners / Managers Name:
Bill & Sharon Hilker

Address / Location:
271 Burns Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850

Phone:
607-592-2277

Email:
honeyrockfarm@gmail.com

Farm Website / Social Media:
www.honeyrockfarm.com / Facebook

Season (Year Round or List Months Open):
Year Round

Days / Hours Open:
By appointment

List Products Available:
Many varieties of local honey (Full list of varieties available can be found on our website).

Additional Comments or Information:
HoneyRock Farm is a local family-owned apiary producing 100% pure unpasteurized honey. Our product is available in several varieties reflecting our land and the seasonal changes in our local plant life. Our honey can be purchased at many locations in and around Ithaca: P&C Fresh (East Hill Plaza), Agway True Value (Fulton St), Agway Northeast (Triphammer Rd), Lively Run Goat Dairy (Interlaken NY) , Cafe Jennie (Cornell Bookstore), J.R. Dill Winery (Burdett NY), and directly from our Online Store. Please check out our website for more information.

Laughing Goat Fiber Farm

Owners / Managers Name:
Lisa Ferguson

Address / Location:
1485 Mecklenburg Rd., Ithaca

Phone:
607-351-7361

Email:
lisa@laughinggoatfiber.com

Farm Website:
http://laughinggoatfiber.shop

Season:
Year round. Shop on premises. Tours by appointment.

Days / Hours Open:
2-7 Sept 1 to Dec 23. Otherwise by appointment.

Products Available:

  • Mohair and Cashmere blends
  • Socks!
  • Hats
  • Scarves
  • Mittens
  • Gloves
  • Blankets
  • Rugs
  • Yarn
  • Roving
  • much more!

Additional Information:
Home grown, Hand made and Hand dyed finished goods.

Indian Creek Farm

Owners / Managers Name:
Stephen Cummins

Address / Location:
1408 Trumansburg Road (“1/2 mile past the hospital on Route 96”)

Phone:
607-227-8248

Email:
indiancreekit@gmail.com

Farm Website:
indiancreekithaca.com

Season:
June through November — Starting with strawberry season and running through the apple-squash-sprout harvest

Days / Hours Open:
8am til one hour before dark. Open in June with Strawberries

Products Available:
U Pick or We Pick!

  • Strawberries
  • raspberries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • apples
  • pumpkins
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • eggplant
  • cucumber
  • zucchini
  • cantaloupe
  • winter squash
  • brussels sprouts
  • flowers
  • cider and more!

Want to know what’s fresh? Sign up to get weekly Fresh Crop Alerts at indiancreekithaca.com/subscribe.

Tree Gate Farm

Owners / Managers Name:
Sharon Tregaskis and Dean Koyanagi

Address / Location:
West Hill

Phone:
N/A

Email:
treegatefarm@gmail.com

Farm Website:
http://treegatefarm.blogspot.com

Season:
May 15–October 30

Days / Hours Open:
wholesale, only

Products Available:
cider apples, vegetables

West Haven Organic Farm

Owners / Managers Name:
Carlos Aguilera and Lorena Mendoza

Address / Location:
EcoVillage, 27 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca, NY 14850

Phone:
607-280-6626

Email:
csa@westhavenfarm.net

Farm Website:
www.westhavenfarm.net

Season:
May through November

Days / Hours Open:
Saturday at Ithaca Farmer’s Market

Products Available:
Offering CSA shares. A variety of seasonal greens and vegetables, see website for detailed list. Seedlings are available at the beginning of the season. Fruit including apples, stone fruit, strawberries and melons.