Michele Ferraro and Kathleen Weathers searched for almost a decade for the perfect land to suit their needs: they found it just outside the Village of Millerton in the Town of North East, a 78.5-acre parcel that hadn’t yet reached its potential. Its previous owner passed away unexpectedly and the land waited for the right buyer to finally bring it to life as a working farm.

When Michele Ferraro and Kathleen Weathers saw the land’s sweeping views up the hillside and over several ponds, they knew that their search for a farm had come to an end. “It was a perfect setting for our commercial sheep and hay farm where we could also use – and demonstrate the utility of – working dogs to manage the farm,” they explain of Caora Farm, home to a 120-head herd of sheep. Michele and Kathleen ensured that their land would remain viable for agriculture forever by working with the DLC and partners Scenic Hudson and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, to sell their development rights and protect it with a conservation easement. “We are infinitely pleased that Caora Farm will remain in agriculture in perpetuity,” they note. “Preserving farmland is one of the greatest things that we can do for future generations. We have both lived and worked in Dutchess County for three decades, so it is even more meaningful. This is such a rich and special landscape, embedded in a community that cares. We are delighted!”

Woman-owned and operated farms account for only 18% of farms in New York State and 33% of farm operations in Dutchess County, which makes it especially important to ensure their viability for the future. Michele and Kathleen are committed to sustainable, small-scale farming and have been expanding the farm each year with their wool products sold locally and regionally. They actively seek novel markets for their wool, such as for housing insulation and creating pressed felt products.

Michele and Kathleen also understand the importance of actively engaging the community about agriculture. Caora Farm hosts a three-day sheepdog trials competition each year that is open to the public at no cost. The pair’s goal is to “promote a sense of community and appreciation for agriculture through the operation of the farm.” Conservation of the farm also benefits the public in that it is visible from the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and contributes to the stunning landscape of the area.