Monica Lopossay moved to Lansing from Ithaca about five years ago right by a portion of the Cornell Orchards on Sweazey Road. To her, the location was perfect to raise a family.
“Essentially it’s our backyard,” Lopossay said of the orchard and the property. “The reason why we chose it was because we have these two small kids, it’s a dead end road, there’s not a lot of traffic and you have all of this beautiful forest that sits right behind our house.”
However, now that the Cornell Orchards is planning on selling its Lansing portion—according to Cornell Real Estate the orchard in Lansing has yet to be put on the market—Lopossay, along with several of her neighbors, worry that the idyllic rural landscape that she lives by will no longer exist.
“To see it get developed into something [undesirable] like housing or who knows what it could get turned into—if Cargill decided to buy it and turned it into something to do with salt or what not,” she said. “That would really be the opposite of why we decided to move out to Lansing and raise our kids here.”
The orchard rests on about 100 acres of land on 154 Sweazey Road in Lansing, and also features forestry, streams and gorges. According to Lansing resident Michael Koplinka-Loehr, 60 of those 100 acres would be up for sale if they are placed on the market.
Eric Shatt, the farm manager at the Lansing orchard, said the Cornell Orchards is consolidating its operations.
“In the last three years, we planted more orchards at the Ithaca research orchard, and so we’re reducing the Lansing orchard but increasing the Ithaca orchard,” Shatt said.
Shatt said the orchards are managed by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES). He also said all of the vertical tree fruit research takes place not only at the Lansing orchard, but also at the Ithaca orchard and the Geneva research station.
“Basically what’s happened over the last 10 to 15 years is a lot of the research has kind of been focused more at the Ithaca location, mostly because of the ease of proximity [with] the campus,” he said. “A lot of the programs have focused more on the teaching-learning aspect of what Cornell has to offer. So it makes sense obviously that that takes place at the Ithaca orchard, rather than the orchard in Lansing…The acreage of fruit trees that CUAES was managing, we had more than we needed. So where do we cut back? And it made sense to cut back up in Lansing.”
Lopossay’s biggest fear is that the land would be sold and turned into an industrial complex, and the environment currently present would be altered significantly.
“If they’re going to put housing where the actual orchard is, I don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “But to destroy this beautiful ecosystem and this forest that is a habitat for so many different animals, especially endangered bird species; there’s bee studies going on, and the gorges and things like that. To come in and destroy all of that to put in housing in this forested area would definitely be terrible, in my opinion, for us.”
When asked whether or not the Cornell Orchards has control over the preservation of the environment during the sale of the acreage, Shatt recommended speaking with Cornell Real Estate on that matter. The Lansing Ledger was able to get in touch with Cornell Real Estate but was unable to get a comment from it prior to the publication of this article.
Lopossay said she and the rest of her neighbors would love to see the environment at the orchard be preserved.
“We are sad to see the orchard go because it’s beautiful,” she said. “We had envisioned dreams of our kids working at that orchard because our neighbors, their kids, who are all grown, they would go and work in the orchards in the summer and things like that.”
“We want to see the forested area stay and the orchard part winds up being some housing. For me personally, I don’t see that as an issue, but anything coming in that would be industrial, that would not be green, that would be a polluter… we certainly wouldn’t want to see anything like that.”
Back in June, Lopossay and a couple of her neighbors urged the Lansing Town Council to support the preservation of the environment at the orchard. Moving forward, Lopossay said she and the rest of those involved will try to make any other local organizations aware of the importance of preserving the environment at the orchard.
“I went around to the local wineries and made sure that they were aware that this land was up [for sale] in case they were looking for more acreage to grow their grapes,” she said. “I went to the [Finger Lakes] Land Trust and discussed things with them and potentially getting some kind of help in that kind of way from a state level or a Tompkins County level to get them involved in this.”