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Squared away: J-E family teams with farm, forest advocate group

A long-standing family tradition at the Hourigan Dairy Farm in Elbridge took on a cause this year, and raised more than $1,000 in the process.

The annual barn dance at Hourigans turned fundraiser Saturday for the New York Agricultural Land Trust, a three-year-old organization advocating for the preservation of farm and forest land in New York.

Nancy Hourigan, who serves as NYALT vice president, said the barn dance has been a yearly event at the farm, bringing family and neighbors together to the music of Ray Randall and The Rythmaires. As NYALT came into its own, the barn dance seemed like the perfect way to raise awareness of the group, raise funds and relax after three years of documents and bylaws.

"Now we're at the point where we can have a celebration," Hourigan said. And that's just what they did Saturday. The dance was underwritten by Cazenovia Equipment, and the admission fee ($5 for adults, $20 for families), included free cider and treats from Owens Orchard.

One Auburn farmer commented that he had heard about NYALT from friends, and wanted to learn more - the barn dance was the perfect opportunity to do so, as he pocketed a pamphlet and headed to the dance floor.

Maureen Knapp, interim executive director of NYALT, said she was asked about the organization by many people throughout the dance.

"It was a great success," Knapp said.

The group is already conserving more than 9,000 acres of farmland in the state, and works closely with farmers to determine what conservation options are best for each individual farm.

But more than just a fundraiser or publicity opportunity, the dance served as a reminder of why the group's mission to preserve farmland is more than about crops and cows - it's about preserving the community.

For more information about NYALT, visit nyalt.org.

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