Towns focus on farmland 

In Chili, nearly as much land is devoted to agriculture as is used for housing. And Wheatland, Chili's neighbor to the south, actually has more farmland than residential acreage.

Elected officials in the two western Monroe County communities have teamed up and are in the early stages of developing a plan to preserve their farmland. Currently, officials are searching for a consultant to help put the plan together. They've received a $50,000 grant from the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to assist with the costs and the towns are contributing a total of $3,000.

The area of Chili south of Black Creek, as well as parts of Wheatland, have fairly wet soils, says Chili Supervisor David Dunning. But they are also rich soils, so they make for productive farmland. In the past, valuable farmland within both towns, as well as in other communities, has been sold for development.

"It's something we need to look at and make sure that as our town grows or spreads out or things happen that we're protecting that element," Dunning says.

The potential loss of farmland was identified as a priority issue in Chili's comprehensive plan, which the town completed in late 2011. And the idea to develop a farmland protection plan grew out of that process.

Chili and Wheatland officials want the plan to identify land for preservation, Dunning says, and to lay out approaches to do so. Other local towns have used a variety of approaches and incentives, from purchasing development rights to offering tax incentives for conservation easements.

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