STONE RIDGE, N.Y. — Apple trees have blossomed, and soon fruit will begin emerging at Elizabeth Ryan’s orchard in the Hudson Valley. Before long, her harvest will head south to Manhattan, where Miro Uskokovic, the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, will use it to create an apple and carob cake, while Michael Anthony, the executive chef at the Studio Cafe inside the Whitney Museum of American Art, will turn it into an apple compote spread over pie dough and covered with a streusel.
Ms. Ryan’s apples are also on school-lunch menus and sold at farmers markets all over the city. Her farm, Stone Ridge Orchard in Ulster County, is part of a rapidly expanding pipeline that carries fruits and vegetables from farms across New York State to consumers clamoring for fresh ingredients grown in soil not far away.
But the demand for locally grown foods is colliding with another powerful force: a booming real estate market, particularly in the Hudson Valley, driven by waves of newcomers from New York City, perhaps drawn by the region’s natural beauty, more relaxed pace and less expensive housing. The boom is gobbling up family farms as owners choose to cash in on the surging value of land rather than grapple with the perennial challenges of slim profit margins, high taxes, long hours and fickle weather.
The number of farms in New York State has been declining steadily, to 35,537 in 2012 from 38,264 in 1997, according to the most recent five-year census conducted by the Department of Agriculture. And since 1982, real estate development has swallowed more than 471,000 acres of the state’s farmland, according to data compiled by the American Farmland Trust, a preservation group.