Then & Now

Land protected in Ionia

Then…a young Hank Stebbins returned home from a trip out of town and discovered his mother had purchased a perfect spot out in the country to satisfy her “green thumb." Hank, his siblings Gay and Houston, and their children grew to love the land and the Hamlet of Ionia as much as his mother, Gary Armstrong Stebbins.

The first time we talked with Hank, one could tell that he had been worrying about the future of the land and the rural character of Ionia, When he talked with his neighbors, they were also thinking about the changes that might come as development continued to creep closer.

Photos by Nigel P. Kent

Photos by Nigel P. Kent

Retired from a career at New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, Hank was familiar with conservation easements when he approached Genesee Land Trust. Hank wanted to conserve his land and to act as a catalyst for conservation in Ionia. Hank, along with his children, Kit and Sam Stebbins, his nieces and nephews Amanda and James Pepper and Houston Stebbins III, decided to work with Genesee Land Trust to see the land conserved forever.

NOW…Hank is excited about the future of this land – in 2016 he started leasing out 50 acres of the farm to Wild Hill Farm, a new CSA (community supported agriculture) farm run by Erin Bullock.

“I’ve been keeping my eye out for a new farmer. When I met Erin who was looking for land I said, ‘We’re on!’”

Erin is busy this spring laying out plots for her pesticide and chemical-free fruits and vegetables. The families who will come to the farm this summer to pick up their shares of produce will have the change to fall in love with Ionia and the farm, just as Hank and his mother did.