Environmental Stewardship & Farmer Sustainability


Jefferson County is located in the northern tier of New York State, where Lake Ontario drains into the St. Lawrence River.  Our County contains approximately 1,293 square miles. We have fifteen state parks, nine state forests totaling 17,857 acres, and 25 County forest parcels totaling 5,493 acres. We also have 17,121 acres of land in wildlife management areas.

In 2012, there were 876 farms occupying 290,811 acres of land. This equals about 36% of the County’s landmass.  The average farm size was 332 acres. This large amount of agricultural land means that County residents enjoy wide open agricultural vistas and forested panoramas.  It places an immense responsibility on our farm owners to be good stewards of the land and our natural resources, which they have.

County residents and visitors to our area, enjoy clean abundant streams, lots of opportunities to enjoy a variety of wildlife, and many recreational opportunities due to our farms.  In northern Jefferson County, vast amounts of grassland, owned by farmers, creates one of the largest tracts of grassland areas in the northeastern United States which provides homes for many species of grassland birds.   During the winter, these same grassland areas provide winter feeding habitat for many birds of prey that thrive on these open, wind blown areas.

Our 200 dairy farms in Jefferson County are among the most highly environmentally regulated across the United States. Many of our farms participate in the voluntary Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program operated by the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.  Some farms, that meet certain livestock number criteria, must comply with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) regulations.

Thankfully, our farmers are good environmental caretakers.  Their families live on the land, they derive their businesses from the land, and they feel a special connection to it.

Here are links to information on various resources:

The Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District is our County’s natural resource conservation agency. They help our community, and especially our farms, conserve our natural resources.  They produced a 2 minute video that outlines the services they provide. You can reach the Soil and Water Conservation District Office at 315-782-2749.

Dairy Farmer’s, Nature’s Recyclers is a great video from the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District that tells the story about how farms manage their waste stream. The video discusses how farms reuse the manure on the farm to keep their soil fertile; why they store manure in storage structures and the degree of science used in managing farm resources.

Jefferson County Farm Bureau is the grassroots voice of farmers in our area.  In 2013, Farm Bureau teamed up with Brian Dwyer from Time Warner Cable News to produce a series of stories about a day on a dairy farm.

The New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP) is a program that assist livestock farms in protecting animal health, assuring food safety and promoting environmental stewardship.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is contributing toward the improvement of water quality throughout the great lakes watershed.

The Hope in Healthy Soils is a great set of short videos about the importance of our soils!

The Jefferson County Soil Survey provides critical information about the soils of our County.

Produced in 2010, One Hungry Planet outlines the amazing work our farmers have done to reduce their footprint on Planet Earth while trying to feed an ever growing population.

Take a look at the impact America’s farmers have on the world. It will give you Some Food For Thought!

Do Manure Storage Structures Leak? A great video that talks about the science behind the design of manure structures and explores whether structures leak and what impact they have on groundwater.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are larger farms that meet certain criteria for the amount of animals housed within a certain area for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately CAFOs have developed a negative connotation despite the fact they are highly regulated and allowed no pollution discharge to waterways within NYS.

Our 2016 Jefferson County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan provides important information about agriculture in Jefferson County.

Environmental and Planning Organizations and Agencies to Contact in Jefferson County are:

Jefferson County Planning Department

New York State Tug Hill Commission

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 6 Office

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – NY

Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust

Ontario Bays Initiative, Inc.

Indian Rivers Lakes Conservancy

Thousand Islands Land Trust

Save The River