Development contract means no development on the Greenlawn Christmas tree farm

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Bruce Tilden wants to keep planting Christmas trees on his family’s 228 year old farm in Greenlawn instead of sowing the seeds for development.

To ensure future generations of families can cut their own Christmas trees on the nearly 14-acre farm, Tilden sold the development rights to Suffolk County and the City of Huntington for $ 3.1 million.

The Tilden family, who have owned and run the farm without interruption since 1793, had received offers from the county and the developers for the past ten years. But the new agreement, which was concluded last year, saves the country from any development and ensures that it will continue to operate as a functioning Christmas tree farm.

Tilden said he was never close to selling the farm – nestled behind the Harbourfields Public Library – to developers. The family first passed a deal to sell the development rights to the county in 2009, he said, and after his father’s death in 2014, estimates were too low to sell.

“I’m a local and my daughter and grandchildren live here and my father lived here,” he said.

The property was valued in 2020 at its final sale price, which is the value of a contract the city made for the farm in 2017.

The city’s Open Space and Park Improvement Fund will cover half of the cost, while Suffolk County will pay the rest through the county’s 1/4 cent sales tax that will be used to maintain the open space.

Suffolk officials said it is among several farms the county has worked to maintain in recent years, including Richter’s Apple Orchard in Northport and Fox Hollow Farm in Dix Hills. Fox Hollow has been converted into Elijah Farm to grow vegetables and create a program for autistic adults.

District officials said open land like Tilden Lane in west Suffolk is particularly important as development pressures on the edges of dense suburbs move closer to open land.

“It’s surrounded by houses on all sides, making it ripe for development,” said Sarah Lansdale, Suffolk County’s director of planning, of the farm.

The farm also sells honey from beehives and leases some of the land to grow fruits and vegetables, including a strawberry harvest every June. It was recognized as a bicentennial farm in 1976.

Tilden will retain the private property after the development rights are sold and will continue to be responsible for property taxes as the land continues to be owned by the family.

In 1974, Suffolk became the first county in the country to start a farmland conservation program. Since then, the Farmland Development Rights have received 11,000 acres and received an additional 9,000 acres with other local governments across the county. The Huntington Environmental Open Space and Park Fund Review Advisory has obtained 48 open lots on more than 300 acres through support and borrowing from the county.

“It enables families to buy their inheritance and gives farmers the opportunity to move on at a reasonable cost,” said Mark Cuthbertson, Huntington city councilor. “We cannot maintain and acquire farms and parks without a willing seller. This is a gift from the Tilden family to the community for their willingness to be here and to preserve open space.”

Facts about the farm

  • Tilden Lane Farm is a greenlawn farm that has been operating continuously since 1793.
  • The development rights of the nearly 14 acre farm were sold to Suffolk County and the City of Huntington.
  • The county and city share the $ 3.1 million deal.
  • According to the terms of the contract, the farm remains undeveloped and the popular self-cutting Christmas tree farm will continue to operate.
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