We are so thrilled to announce our purchase of the Bender Melon Farm! After securing more than 1 million dollars in less than two years, our largest fundraising campaign ever, this historic property at the corner of routes 85 and 85A has been preserved. We are so grateful to the generous community who rallied alongside us to protect the 195-acre farm. With your support, we were able to close on the property despite challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of state funds.
“The Bender Melon Farm has been saved. MHLC is incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support we have received for this project, especially during such a challenging time.” – Executive Director Mark King
The farm was once known nationally for the Bender Melon, a prized cantaloupe variety, developed and cultivated by Charles Bender at the turn of the 20th century. In the mid-1970s, the farm changed hands and fell into disarray. A big box store’s plan to develop the property in 2008 drew huge public opposition. Since then, the property’s remained for sale and vulnerable to development.
The environmental impact of preserving this iconic Albany County landscape cannot be understated. This property will provide vital habitat for insects, birds, and other animals to live and thrive in the age of global warming, while also offering the public safe access to the outdoors and recreational opportunities.
We would like to recognize the family of the late Matthew Bender IV, for their generous support of this project. The Bender family issued a $50,000 matching challenge this fall that helped us move closer to our fundraising goal.
“This successful acquisition embodies all that Matt Bender valued; a strong community effort, smart philanthropy, and a nifty family connection which all came to together nicely. It is literally a gift he guided in his last days”, said Matt’s son, Christian Bender, on behalf of the Bender family.
We are also grateful to long-time supporters Peter and Barbara Kelly of Delmar for providing bridge funding that allowed MHLC to close on the property in advance of the sale of the 20-acre commercial area of the 195-acre property.
Peter Kelly said, “When the Bender Melon Farm was offered to MHLC over a year ago at a possibly attainable price, it was like a dream come true. Instead of just another ugly mall destroying our unique, unspoiled rural community, we now had the possibility to construct an amazing destination on the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.”
The Iselin family of Delmar also stepped in to help at a critical point, ensuring our success with a generous donation. Immediate trail plans include the creation of a memorial trail funded by the Iselin family in memory of their son David Iselin.
Harold and Lauren Iselin said, “We are honored to be able to help the Conservancy complete this acquisition that is so important to our community. Our son, David, loved the outdoors, and this is a fitting way to help remember him.”
Bringing the Vision to Life
The scenic landscape is the largest undeveloped parcel along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail and holds tremendous potential for recreational and educational possibilities. Over the winter, we will work on cleaning up the property and start planning for trails and other improvements, so the public can safely access the property. In the next phase of the project, we plan to engage the public in planning how the conserved land will be used.
Thank you to everyone who made this huge success possible!