The vast majority of the Preserve’s agricultural lands (e.g., row crops such as corn) are farmed in a “wildlife-friendly” manner that benefits primarily wintering migratory waterfowl and waterbirds, especially sandhill cranes and Swainson’s hawks. Post-harvest treatment of wildlife-friendly crops is the most essential aspect of the operation in order for the full benefit of the land to be realized by wildlife. For example, sandhill cranes begin arriving at the Preserve around the time of the corn harvest; so while they do not use standing corn, they do forage extensively on post-harvest corn fields that have been flooded at Staten Island (Ivey and Herziger 2003; Gause et al. 2003).
The types of crops grown at the Preserve vary annually according to specific land-management considerations, market conditions, and the needs of the local farmers. As of 2000, approximately 21 different types of crops were grown on Preserve lands, including apricots, beans (green), beans (dry), cherries, corn, general field crops, general grain and hay, melons, squash, cucumbers, miscellaneous mixed grain and hay, irrigated pasture alfalfa and mix, irrigated pasture clover, irrigated pasture general, irrigated pasture mixed, rice, safflower, sudan, tomatoes, vineyards, and non-irrigated grassland (Department of Water Resources 2000). While many of those crops may have changed over the past few years, the overall Preserve acreage in active agricultural production remained fairly stable.
Income from the leased properties.The Preserve receives many benefits from agriculture, including:
- Buffer between more urban land uses and wildlife habitat near the river.
- Provision of an on-site farmer to help deter illegal activities such as trespass or dumping on the property.
- Maintenance of aesthetics and open space for local residents and Preserve visitors.
- Habitat value for target species.
- Creation of long-term social capital by retaining the trust of local farmers and communities and their ability to contribute to the local economy through agricultural production and taxes.
The Preserve contains over 50,000 acres. According to the Preserve’s GIS data, approximately 37,500 acres are used for agricultural production (e.g., crops and grazing), 16,500 on fee-owned lands and 21,000 on easement lands. On the fee-owned lands, approximately 4,200 acres are utilized for grazing and 12,300 acres are used to grow crops.
For more information about agriculture on the Preserve, check out the Management Plan.