Sep 1, 2021
The Booth family in Greenwich New York didn’t know what the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) was when they first met with attorney/estate planner Megan Harris-Pero
The Booth family in Greenwich New York didn’t know what the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) was when they first met with attorney/estate planner Megan Harris-Pero to begin the difficult, complex, and often costly discussion about the generational transition of their family farm and its multiple enterprises. Luckily Harris-Pero works with HVADC as a Business Technical Assistance (BTA) advisor and recognized in the Booths a great candidate for HVADC support through its Incubator Without Walls program.
Harris-Pero is the founding partner of Harris-Pero & Bothelho, PPLC in Saratoga Springs New York. The firm specializes in elder law, estate planning, estate settlement and business law. She has also worked with HVADC as an advisor to its Farm and Food Funding Accelerator program. “We just fell into them (HVADC) through Megan and it was great,” said Kevin Booth, who owns the family farm with his parents Harry and JoAnne Booth. “HVADC came in and it was a gift. Now we are pretty well set for the future, even for my kids.”
Harry and JoAnne Booth were dairy farmers for many years, milking as many as 100 cows at times. When they had more stored manure than they had crops to spread it on they decided to start Booth’s Batch Composting in 1998. They worked with friend of HVADC, Aaron Gabriel at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) to formulate the chemical balance of their natural mix and learned a lot, Kevin said. Gabriel is a Soils and Field Crops Educator working with CCE Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Programs (CAAHP) in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Washington counties.
In 2003 milk prices rendered the Booth’s dairy operation unsustainable and they sold their herd. They were able to transition to a new model thanks to the income from the compost business as well as a high quality beef production operation that continues to this day under the name Edgewood Farm. The family also has an LLC that manages the farm property including 40 acres currently farmed by Kevin’s in-laws. With Both Harry and JoAnne turning 80, it was time for the family to sit down and untangle their holdings so they could be seamlessly passed to the next generation.
“Estate planning and long term care are scary things. There’s a lot of things I didn’t know,” said Kevin Booth. “When you grow up your whole life in farming you don’t really think a lot about what happens when it’s time to pass things along.”While they may be well past retirement age for other lines of work, Harry and JoAnne still work full days on the farm with JoAnne usually driving the dump truck full of compost for deliveries. Kevin said estate planning was hard to schedule and was surprisingly complicated and costly. He said the help they received from Harris-Pero, funded by HVADC, will be integral in ensuring the farms future success.
“We want to help every farm family we can, whether they know who we are or not!” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “The transition of a farm business from one generation to the next is not just an emotional process but, especially these days, a complicated legal one. Being able to support the important work Meghan does in detangling the process for a family like the Booths is why we are here.”
Typically funds that BTA providers such as HVADC use to assist farmers are patched together in a piecemeal fashion and include philanthropic and federal funding. The funding HVADC used to assist the Booths was received through a $94,525 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) in 2020 through the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program (VF&FVP). Securing that funding was a collaborative effort between regional agricultural agencies focused on supporting farms throughout the Northeast, including GrowNYC. The NBRC is a Federal-State partnership for economic and community development within the most distressed counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
High quality one-on-one BTA like the kind Harris-Pero provided with the financial backing of HVADC, is integral to the growth and sustainability of agricultural business and community development in modern America. It’s the lifetime dedication of family farmers like the Booths that inspires HVADC, their peers in the Agricultural Viability Alliance (AVA), and a growing list of elected officials, to demand that the USDA allocate $300 million in dedicated USDA earmarked stimulus funds to create and bolster infrastructure to deliver BTA to the farmers and entrepreneurs that desperately need it. When a farmer’s finances, business planning and future are secure they can focus on what they do best, farming.
To learn more about the scope of BTA HVADC provides through Incubator Without Walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls.