Donald Tooker’s generosity means the land will remain in ag production
By Diego Flammini
A retired New York farmer is making sure his land will still be used for food production despite urban development pressures.
Donald Tooker, who operated a dairy farm, a sawmill and an apiary on his property in Wilton, N.Y., donated 89 acres of land to Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature). The organization helps preserve the “rural character, natural habitats and scenic beauty of Saratoga County.”
Urban development around Tooker’s farm inspired his donation.
Neighborhoods and industrial complexes are going up in his community. Developers have approached Tooker about selling his land to them for further construction, but the farmer has always declined, said Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN.
“He’s been offered multi-millions of dollars on several occasions but has always maintained that he wants his land used for food production,” she told Farms.com. “Many farmers are concerned about food security for future generations, and he wanted to make sure there was some land left in his area to feed people.”
Tooker could never envision his fields being anything but farmland.
“I never wanted a housing development down through the fields,” he told The Saratogian Sunday. “There are so many farms just plain being used for development and going out of business. There is going to be a shortage of land in the future. I wanted my land to be used for agriculture.”
The community also donated funds to help close the transfer.
The process cost about US$67,000 when surveys, legal fees and other expenses are factored in. Saratoga County pitched in US$32,144, the Town of Wilton gave $10,000 and the community donated about $25,000.
Saratoga PLAN has conserved 858 acres at seven farms this year, and 10 more farm projects are underway.
Donald Tooker and Maria Trabka finalize the land donation/Saratogian photo