For Farmers

About Agriculture and Farmland Protection Entrepreneur Resources Financial Resources Drought Resources


Why Farm in Jefferson County

  • We have a cool climate with average summer temperatures in the 70s, well suited for dairy, cold hardy grapes, soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa, grasses, and many other crops and livestock. We like to say we grow some of the best grass in the Northeast!
  • We have a wide variety of soils ranging from well drained loams to poorly drained clays. Our farmers excel at managing their soil resources.
  • Most of the major agricultural service agencies are located in the County including USDA Natural Resources Conservation, USDA Farm Service, USDA Rural Development, County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Our County even created an agricultural economic development position within our economic development agency to make sure agriculture receives the same attention as all other industries.
  • Whether you operate green, red, white, blue, or orange farm equipment, we have sales and service dealers within 45 minutes of your farm, if not closer.
  • Did we say we love agriculture? Just in case you're not sure, WE LOVE AGRICULTURE!

Helpful Resources

Agriculture and Farmland Protection

Agricultural Districts

The purpose of agricultural districting is to encourage the continued use of farmland for agricultural production. The Program is based on a combination of landowner incentives and protections, all of which are designed to forestall the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. Included in these benefits are preferential real property tax treatment (agricultural assessment and special benefit assessment), and protections against overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Agriculture District Information

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Call the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets at 1-518-457-8887 for more information on the NYS Certified Ag Districts program.

Jefferson County Agricultural Districts Information:

The New York State Agricultural Districts Law has been amended to allow parcels of predominantly viable agricultural land to be added to existing Agricultural Districts that have been established by the county legislative body. Prior to this amendment, land could only be added to an existing Agricultural District once every eight years during the District’s required review. The amended Law also requires counties to establish a thirty-day period within which to accept proposals from landowners. The Jefferson County Board of Legislators has established June 1st through June 30th of each year for this purpose. Contact either Jefferson County Planning Department at 315-785-3144 or Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator at 315-782-5865 for more information NYS Certified Agricultural Districts in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Right to Farm Law

For answers to questions about Jefferson County’s Right to Farm Law, contact Jefferson County Planning Department at 315-785-3144

2002 Jefferson County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan

2016 DRAFT Jefferson County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan

Contact Jefferson County Planning Department at 315-785-3144 for information about Farmland Protection Plans in Jefferson County.

Agricultural Value Assessments

One of the most important benefits of the Agricultural Districts Program is the opportunity provided farmland owners to receive real property assessments based on the value of their land for agricultural production rather than on its development value. Farmers receiving agricultural assessment collectively save over $70 million annually. The Division administers the Land Classification System, including maintenance of the statewide master list of agricultural soils. This system provides the basic soils information needed to calculate agricultural assessments for individual farms. For more information in Jefferson County, contact the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District at 315-782-2749

Entrepreneur Resources

NY Beginning Farmers Project

The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project is led by a team of educators who care deeply about supporting the success of new farmers. It is housed at the Cornell Small Farms Program and is funded by the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, project #2009-49400-05878 and a grant from the NYFVI.

Learn More at

The Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College

Since our start in 1986, the expert advisors of the Watertown SBDC have worked directly with 17,451 businesses, helping them to invest $247,900,257 in the area's economy, and create or save 8,291 jobs.

Learn More at

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The NYS Depart of Agriculture and Markets' mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. Agriculture makes up one-quarter of the State's land area and contributes immensely to the quality of life in New York State by generating economic activity and producing wholesome products to nourish our families.

Learn More at

Empire State Development Corporation.

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of Empire State Development is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies.

Learn More at

Cornell Waste Management Institute

The Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI) is a program in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. CWMI serves the public through research, outreach, training, and technical assistance, with a focus on organic residuals.

Learn More at

FarmSelect (Online Tool)

Online Tool Allows Comparisons of Conventional and Organic Farming. The New Farm Web site now features an online economic modeling tool called FarmSelect that allows farmers to compare the economic returns of organic and conventional grain production. FarmSelect was designed by farmers, for farmers, and the program has been made as easy to use as possible. Farmers can enter their Zip Code, the crops they'd like to compare and the acreage. The program fills in the rest with historical data derived from the USDA and projections from research conducted by The Rodale Institute®. Then FarmSelect shows a line-by-line comparison of the two systems so farmers can see just how they would stack up on their farm, in their own climate. And the whole process takes less than a minute.

Use the tool and Learn More at

Miscellaneous Resources for Farmers

There is increased interest in raising poultry for eggs and meat. A variety of resources on raising poultry is available at Beginning Farmers Website. For those interested in on-farm poultry processing, here is an excellent guide to help you learn the regulations.

The Guide to Farming in NY, provided by Cornell University, is an excellent tool to provide answers about taxes, business planning, labor law, regulations, marketing and many other topics.

The United States Department of Agriculture has a great website resource for New Farmers.

Beef Cuts Poster.  

Pork Cuts Poster.

Vegetable Growing Guides from Cornell University.



Financial Resources

The Jefferson County Economic Development Office monitors the many areas of financial assistance available to new and existing farmers, including government grants, loan opportunities and more. We encourage you to call us at 315-782-5865 for more information.

The New York Farm Viability Institute offers grant programs and other resources for farmers.

The New York Farm Viability Institute is a grant making organization, led by volunteer farmers, funded primarily by New York State. Their mission is to help New York’s farmers become more profitable and to improve the long-term economic viability and sustainability of our state’s farms, the food system, and the communities which they serve. For more information contact them at 315-453-3823

USDA Rural Development Grants and Loans:

You may contact the Jefferson County Field Office at 315-782-7289 extension 4

Value Added Producers Grant Program

The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain. Grants are awarded through a national competition.

Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Loans and Grants

Provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

USDA Farm Service Agency has a variety of programs too numerous to list here. You may contact the Jefferson County Field Office at 315-782-7289 extension 2.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offers a variety of programs and service to assist agriculture. For More information, contact the Jefferson County Field Office at 315-782-7289 extension 3

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Programs:

Contact the Division of Agricultural Development for assistance at 1-518-457-7076

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program call 1-518-457-4383 for information

Development Authority of the North CountryContact the Development Authority at 315-785-2593 for more information.

Farmland Drainage Loan Program – Created in 2000, the Farmland Drainage Loan Program provides low-interest loans to farmers in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties to install tile drainage in order to increase crop production yields.  To be eligible for the program, farming must be the applicant’s primary business.  Land to be drained should presently be productive farmland that with drainage would improve crop production yields. Here are links for information - Program Description   Application

Authority Value Added Agriculture Program – Created in 2011, the Value-Added Agriculture Program was created to increase the availability of value-added products for retail consumption.  The program is open to individuals, farms and businesses located in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. Here are links for information - Program Description Application

North Country Value Added Agriculture Loan Program – This program was created in 2014 with funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council to improve productivity and crop yields to increase the availability of value-added agriculture products to market.  Here are links for more information Program Description

National Grid Energy Incentive Programs: call 1-800-332-3333 for additional information.  You may also contact the Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator at 315-782-5865 for assistance in learning more about National Grid programs.

The Agri Business Productivity program provides rebates to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy delivery and/or productivity improvements undertaken by dairy businesses, dairy farms and controlled environment agricultural facilities located within the service territory of National Grid New York.

Application requests may include but are not limited to the following:
 Energy efficiency lighting, ballasts, fixtures and lighting controls
 A-C Energy Efficient Motors and electronic speed control devices
 Ventilation fans driven by AC Motors
 Centrifugal pumps driven by AC Motors
 Process equipment driven by AC Motors and controls
 Renewable energy projects directly serving the facility (anaerobic digestion, solar, bio-mass, or hydro power)
 In addition, the project costs can include the costs associated with renovating/retrofitting customer distribution systems (i.e. building wiring/grounding).
Minimum Program Requirements: Please review the program requirements and guidelines below, prior to completing an application for funding.
Note: Program assistance is only available to customers in good standing, located within National Grid’s upstate New York franchise territory. Applicants must be current in payments with National Grid or have executed a deferred payment agreement with the Company.

To be eligible for this program, the applicant must:
 Be a dairy farmer and/or a milk processing business or controlled environment agriculture facility in the National Grid New York service territory
To be eligible for this program, the facility (business or farm) must:
 Receive electric or natural gas service from National Grid, and
 Be undertaking an energy efficiency project through the New York Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) or other public agency or program; OR
 Purchasing/installing equipment for a renewable energy project to serve facility; OR
 New constructing/upgrading (for increased energy efficiency) a controlled environment agriculture facility.

Funding and Eligibility Guidelines

Program funding and parameters are established annually by National Grid. Grants are available on a continual basis until all funding is expended during that program year or until December 31st of the current program year. Funding is released to a grant award recipient only after the recipient has met all conditions of the program. In all circumstances, funding should be viewed by the applicant as a reimbursement for work completed following grant approval in the form of an award letter.
The grant award recipient should expect to execute a Funding Agreement with National Grid. The Agreement will outline expectations of the grant program and the conditions for the release of funds.
Grant amounts listed are the maximum allowable award for each program. Each application is evaluated on a variety of factors, resulting in some not receiving the maximum grant award.
If you are applying to more than one program for the same project, you must indicate that clearly on the application.
Under no circumstance will funding be released after the expiration of the Company’s current rate agreement or without prior written consent from National Grid.

 Grant amounts will be determined based on the size of the total capital investment you are making in your project/facility (including energy and non-energy related investments) as follows:

Total Capital Investment

Total Avail Funding not to Exceed:
Under $25,000
$25,000 up to $100,000
$100,000 up to $500,000
Above $500,000
Grant amounts listed are the maximum allowable award for each program. All applications are evaluated on a wide variety of factors. Most applications will not be scored at a level which will result in the maximum grant award.  Program funds will be provided after funding from NYSERDA, New York State Ag & Markets or other program resources have been secured.  Applicant must document its contribution of matching funds to equal 25% of the total project costs. Eligible renewable generation projects must be connected and operated in accordance with the company’s Tariff.

How to Apply:

To apply for the Agri Business Productivity please:
Complete the program application on-line.; and,
Upload all required documentation as noted at the end of your on-line application.
If you need assistance in completing the application,

please contact Karen Mousaw via email at .