R. Thomas Hutson
Tom Hutson, a dairy farmer from DeLancey, New York, has been honored with AFT's 2006 Steward of the Land Award.
Hutson operates River Haven Farm in the Catskill Mountains, where he has 380 acres and a herd of 108 Holsteins. He raises corn, alfalfa, oats and barley. There are 57 acres of hardwood forest on the farm, and Hutson also raises Hi-Ho’s, a Holstein-Scottish Highland beef cattle cross.
Leadership in Conservation
Hutson was one of the first farmers to participate in pilot programs administered by the Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) to reduce organic pollution in the Catskill/Delaware reservoir systems, which provide drinking water for millions of residents of the metropolitan New York City area.
He installed buffer and filter strips: permanent rows of vegetation that slow water runoff and erosion of riverbanks and also filter out damaging substances from the water supply. He also put a rotational grazing system into place, implemented a forest management plan and did stream restoration work.
In 2002, Hutson protected his farm with a conservation easement acquired by WAC, which allows him and future owners of River Haven Farm to continue working the land while limiting any future development and subdivision of his property. This will ensure that New Yorkers enjoy clean water and wildlife habitat in perpetuity—including the bald eagles that nest in a huge sycamore tree on his farm.
Partnering to Protect the Water Supply
Hutson was a leader in efforts to develop solutions to watershed protection that retain the farmers’ rights to continue making a living without burdensome regulations in a voluntary, fully-funded partnership. Thanks to the efforts of WAC, the city's Department of Environmental Protection, and farmers like him, New York City was spared the expense of a billion-dollar water filtration system.
Hutson has shared his experiences with his peers and advocates through numerous on-farm demonstrations and by speaking to countless visitors, reporters and groups. His one-on-one consultations with other farmers have resulted in numerous applications to the WAC easement program.
Established in 1997, AFT’s Steward of the Land Award recognizes the American farmer or farm family who best demonstrates leadership in protecting farmland and caring for the environment. The award honors the memory of Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, an avid farmer and conservationist who helped found AFT. Hutson is the tenth farmer to win this award.