Westchester Land Trust to Host Annual Benefit, Growing Our Future, on June 8 Honoring The Ryder Family, Annie Farrell, and Mike Surdej

Invite to land trust dinner


Held at historic Old Salem Farm in North Salem, the event celebrates honorees for their accomplishments in farmland protection, agricultural innovation, and volunteer work


 Westchester Land Trust (WLT), a nationally accredited land conservation nonprofit headquartered in Bedford Hills, NY, is hosting its annual benefit, Growing Our Future, Saturday, June 8 at the historic Old Salem Farm in North Salem, NY. This event will celebrate farmland protection successes, agricultural changemakers, and the spirit of volunteering on the land, all while raising funds to advance the land trust’s conservation mission.

The Preservation Award will be given to The Ryder family, owners and operators of Ryder Farm, the oldest working farm in Putnam County, who permanently protected their 128-acre farm through a conservation easement with Westchester Land Trust in 2023. Ryder Farm was established in 1795 by Eleazer Ryder and has been proudly stewarded by the family for eight generations.


Throughout its history, the farm, which is situated along Peach Lake, has been a working farm with a general store, a dairy farm, and a family leisure resort. Following a period marked by struggling farms and increased development throughout Putnam County in the early- to mid-1900s, Ryder Farm became an early adopter of the organic farming movement and sold its produce at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. This effort was first led in the 1970s by family member Hall Gibson, followed by Betsey and John Ryder. Ryder Farm has more than 3,000 feet of frontage on Peach Lake and the protected land safeguards drinking water access, as the area drains into the Croton Reservoir system, which serves Westchester County and New York City.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Annie Farrell, a member of WLT’s Advisory Board, in recognition of her decades of agricultural innovation throughout the region and beyond. Farrell was born in New York City and spent summers at her family’s cottage along Peach Lake, located on the other side of the water body from Ryder Farm. Farrell’s first job was cleaning stalls at Old Salem Farm (formerly Salem View Farm), where WLT’s annual benefit is being held.

Following her dream of becoming a farmer, Farrell moved to Bovina, NY in the Catskill Mountains where she formed the Delaco Agricultural Co-op, a collection of 40 farmers growing and selling food locally. From there, she established Annie’s, a business dedicated to providing organic specialty crops for restaurants. Annie’s was the first operation to introduce organic mesclun greens to the New York City culinary market and launched its popularity throughout the country. Upon selling Annie’s, Farrell became the founder and director of CADE (the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship), a nonprofit that helped farmers diversify income streams and adopt sustainable practices. Throughout the years, Annie has been an instrumental and inspiring advisor to WLT staff in their farmland protection and farmland matching work.

Farrell has harnessed her wealth of agricultural knowledge to help develop or revitalize countless farms across the region. She served as director of Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT, and consulted for David Rockefeller to develop the master plan for Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Dave Matthews’ Best of What’s Around Farm, Farm Aid, Annie Liebovitz’s Clifton Point Farm, Martha Stewart’s Katonah Farm, and designed the community Fodor Farm in the City of Norwalk, CT. She spent 10 years developing Cabbage Hill Farm, and designed and built the aquaponic systems at the farm. While there, she also opened the Flying Pig restaurant.

Additionally, Farrell is a founding board member of the New England Livestock Alliance, served on the Muscoot Farm Advisory Board and Westchester County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, has been involved with the USDA Lower Hudson Resource Conservation and Development Council, was on the original Watershed Agricultural Council (East of Hudson) executive committee, and worked with the Jacob Alliance’s Livestock Consulting Group. She is part of the North Salem Climate Group.

The Community Volunteer Award will be given to Mike Surdej, a member of WLT’s Advisory Board, for his long-time volunteer efforts with the organization. Surdej has volunteered with WLT for more than 13 years across many preserves doing trail maintenance, tree plantings, invasive vine removals, building fences and bridges, creating nesting boxes and platforms for birds, and being the organization’s go-to handyman around the office. Mike’s technical skills are matched by his thoughtfulness, reliability, and can-do approach to life. He has played a vital role in WLT’s land stewardship, land protection, and community engagement work and is a daily resource and support to WLT’s staff. He helped raise funds for, design, and build the John Jay Community Trail in Cross River, serves on the Open Space and Preserves Advisory Committee (OSPAC) in Lewisboro, leads the Lewisboro Trail Volunteers, and has mentored more than 12 Eagle Scouts with their final projects. Surdej was born in Poland and grew up in the Bronx where he spent time at local botanical gardens building his lifelong affinity for natural spaces.

In addition to celebrating the honorees, guests will be treated to stunning views of Old Salem Farm’s equestrian facilities and enjoy signature cocktails, farm-to-table food, live music, a silent auction full of one-of-a-kind items, and WLT’s ever-popular wine pull.

The event was planned with the help of an enthusiastic and talented benefit committee that includes co-chairs Jessica Watts and Jennifer Wege; honorary chair, Martha Stewart; as well as Alessandra Arango, Gianna Caiola, Colleen Canavan, Ava Cohn, Brendon Desimone, Annie Farrell, Amy Ferguson, Tobi Fradkin, Tana Gullotta, Patty Kravit, Susan Krog, Lee Manning-Vogelstein, Susan Markowitz, Nancy Nygreen, Ellen Reimer, Betsey Ryder, Jen Schwartz, Donna Schwartz, Karen Simons, and Mike Surdej.

Tickets to the event are sold out but interested individuals can contact  [email protected] or 914-234-6992 ext. 23 to be added to the waiting list, purchase a tribute advertisement for the e-journal, or to make a donation to the event. Proceeds from the event will benefit WLT’s land protection, stewardship, and community engagement programs.

We acknowledge that our region is within the traditional territories of the Lenape people and that their culture and traditions live on today. We strive to incorporate the priorities from Indigenous Peoples and underserved community members into our land conservation practices.