Places We Protect

Uplands Farm Sanctuary

New York

View on a sunny day overlooking a green meadow with a large green tree pictured at center, cut off from the frame at the top.
Uplands Farm Preserve A gorgeous day at our Uplands Farm Preserve on Long Island. © A. Graziano Photography

Visit this dairy farm turned carbon-neutral Conservancy preserve and office.

Overview

Description

True to its name, Uplands Farm Sanctuary in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, retains the appearance of an old dairy farm, complete with a silo and open meadows that were once cattle pastures. Today, the old brick farm buildings serve as an office for The Nature Conservancy's Long Island Chapter.

Before you visit, download a trail map.

The preserve offers visitors the chance to enjoy a variety of natural habitats and native species. Nearly 2.5 miles of marked trail meanders from bird and butterfly meadows, through deciduous forests, and into a white pine-shaded ravine.

The gravelly, acidic soils of Uplands Farm are difficult to fertilize, so raising livestock was preferable to cultivation over the years. In colonial times, the land was most likely used for sheep ranching for wool. In 1920, the Nichols family began raising cattle and ultimately ran a dairy at Uplands Farm until 1962.

Mrs. Jane Nichols, a long-time resident and owner of Uplands Farm, donated three parcels of the preserve to the Conservancy during the late 1970s, including several buildings. Upon her death in 1981, additional parcels were acquired, bringing the total size of the preserve to 97 acres. The sanctuary is dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Nichols and her commitment to environmental conservation.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Dawn to dusk, seven days a week

Size

97 acres

Explore our work in this region

Uplands Farm Sanctuary is open to visitors from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. The office is open Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. The Nature Conservancy does not allow dogs or other pets on our preserves.

If you’re interested in longer hikes, the West Loop Trail at Uplands Farm connects to the 20-mile Nassau-Suffolk Trail, part of the Long Island Greenbelt where one can hike from Cold Spring Harbor south to Massapequa.

The trail begins in the sanctuary's most popular attraction—the vast wildflower meadows which provide important habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including milkweed, goldenrod, and dozens of butterfly species. Bird species associated with this type of habitat are Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and Blue-winged Warbler. Groundhogs have also become common on the preserve, so be sure to look for them feeding along the edge of the meadow along the Daniel P. Davison trail. Historically, these fields were hayed once a year and used to feed the local cattle. Every winter, stewardship staff at the Conservancy mow the vegetation in the meadow to retain this special habitat and historic appearance.

A nest box program provides shelter and reproduction opportunity for cavity-nesting birds such as Tree Swallows, House Wrens, and occasionally Eastern Bluebirds. Look for the Tree Swallows, flashes of metallic blue above the meadow grasses and wildflowers, as they swiftly snatch flying insects out of the sky. The Conservancy maintains trails leading to the nest boxes to manage the program, so please stay out of these areas to minimize disturbance. They are marked with signage indicating they are closed to hiking.

Follow the Daniel P. Davison trail through the eastern woodland to see red maple, black cherry, and red cedar mixed with oak, ash, black walnut, and hickory trees. Traverse the hilly terrain of the West Loop trail through the western woodland to spot flowering dogwood and extensive thickets of mountain laurel bloom below a canopy of oaks, tulip trees, and black birch.

Uplands Farm Sanctuary is a great place to view a variety of resident and migratory songbird species throughout most of the year. May is a particularly fun time to visit— diversity is at its peak with neotropical migrants and return breeders bustling about the preserve. Twenty-two species of warbler have been documented here and stunners such as Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and Orchard Oriole breed in the surrounding woodlands and edges. The golden-rod filled meadows offer an excellent chance of spotting Orange-crowned Warbler during the month of October. Eastern Bluebird, the New York state bird, can also be found on the preserve throughout the year.

The main office once served as a cattle barn for the Nichols dairy operation and was renovated in 1995 to provide space for the Conservancy’s growing staff and conservation programs. Outfitted with its original barn doors and windows, along with a large white silo, Uplands Farm still retains its historic appearance. In the near future, The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with Suffolk County, will be installing a new wastewater treatment system that is designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen that enters our groundwater and surrounding water bodies.

Parking is available for up to 10 vehicles in front of the Uplands Farm Sanctuary main office. Please inquire with the Uplands Farm staff before bringing large groups: 631-367-3225.

Tick Safety: Please be cautious when hiking at Uplands Farm Sanctuary throughout the year, but especially during peak tick activity (April through October). Deer and dog ticks are commonplace at this sanctuary and proper protection measures should ensure an enjoyable experience throughout the year.

Instagram user? Please use #uplandsfarmsanctuary and tag us, @nature.ny, with your nature shots!

In the eastern woodland, you’ll see red maple, black cherry and red cedar mixed with oak, ash and hickory trees. In the hilly terrain of the western woodland, flowering dogwood and extensive thickets of mountain laurel bloom below a canopy of oaks, tulip trees and black birch. The sanctuary's meadows and hedgerows provide habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including butterfly weed and goldenrods, 40 butterfly species and grassland birds such as bobolinks and meadowlarks, which have become rare as their habitat has disappeared.

Bluebirds, the New York state bird, return in late winter and early spring. They build their nests in bird boxes or tree cavities along forest edges. Monarch butterflies return to the region in late summer. Both the caterpillars and adult butterflies rely on the butterfly weed and other milkweed species that bloom in the open fields.

This 97-acre preserve is located in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

A Clean Energy Makeover at Uplands

At The Nature Conservancy’s Uplands Farm Sanctuary in Cold Spring Harbor, Hilario Minaya and coworkers from Empower Solar attach glinting, blue solar panels to the roof of a former dairy barn that now serves as a TNC office. “You produce electricity with sunlight. It’s great,” says Minaya, who began working in solar six months after graduating from high school a few years back.

The addition of 45 kilowatts of solar power to an existing array here is part of the final push to make the preserve and its operations carbon neutral, meaning the facility will produce as much clean energy as it uses each year. 

Three workers wearing masks up on a roof installing solar panels. Hilario Minaya is on the left, standing on the roof with a harness and rope for safety.
Power of the Sun Installed in the summer of 2020, the addition of 45 kilowatts of solar power to an existing array was the final push to make Uplands carbon neutral. © Dorothy Hong

To reverse global warming, the world must go carbon neutral in the next 10 years, scientists from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us. Uplands Farm Sanctuary has already arrived at this goal. “We want to show people that this kind of transition to clean energy isn’t just a dream for the future but something we can do now,” says Jessica Price, The Nature Conservancy’s New York renewable energy strategy lead, who spearheaded the project. 

The preserve and its staff hope to inspire visitors, local leaders, business owners, community institutions and neighbors. “Seeing solar panels in your neighborhood is one of the biggest factors in motivating homeowners and businesses to install solar,” Price says as she eyes the new electric-vehicle (EV) charger in the front corner of the parking lot. “By noticing this array and the other energy improvements we’ve made here, people, we hope, will get interested and excited about exploring their own options and will start thinking big when it comes to securing the clean energy future.”

Going Carbon Neutral

The idea of going carbon neutral at Uplands was first set in motion four years ago, says Price. “We started this conversation about what we could do in our own business operations to showcase The Nature Conservancy’s priorities.” Addressing climate change, of course, was prime among them. TNC then reached out to the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, a nonprofit that supports sustainability efforts. Sun Club donated 65 percent of the project’s costs. “It was a great opportunity to do something we’d been dreaming about,” Price says. 

The funding helped make all kinds of clean energy upgrades at Uplands possible. First, the facility decreased the amount of energy it uses by insulating its buildings and adding weather sealing that helps stop cold air from leaking out in the summertime and prevents it from flowing in in winter. Uplands installed new, energy-efficient windows and a smart, programmable thermostat. Next, the facility replaced its oil-burning heating system with efficient, electric air-source heat pumps that absorb ambient heat from the air and use it, instead of fossil fuels, to warm buildings.

The most visible parts of the upgrade—the installation of the solar panels and an electric-vehicle (EV) charging station—were meant to begin in the spring of 2020 but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the panels are up and running and the upgrades, overall, will save TNC a substantial amount of money on Uplands’ energy bills and reduce the preserve’s carbon output over the course of the year to a giant goose egg: zero.

Three masked workers, viewed at center, on top of a roof installing a solar panel.
Power of the Sun Installed in the summer of 2020, the addition of 45 kilowatts of solar power to an existing array was the final push to make Uplands carbon neutral. © Dorothy Hong
A view of a solar panel array on top of a brick roof with blue sky in background.
Catching the Eye “Seeing solar panels in your neighborhood is one of the biggest factors in motivating homeowners and businesses to install solar,” says Price. © Dorothy Hong
Power of the Sun Installed in the summer of 2020, the addition of 45 kilowatts of solar power to an existing array was the final push to make Uplands carbon neutral. © Dorothy Hong
Catching the Eye “Seeing solar panels in your neighborhood is one of the biggest factors in motivating homeowners and businesses to install solar,” says Price. © Dorothy Hong

Clean Energy Jobs

Investments in clean energy have clear long-term benefits to humanity as they help slow the pace of climate change, but these investments have immediate benefits to people as well. One of the most important ones is jobs. In 2010, 93,500 Americans were employed in the field full time, according to the Solar Foundation’s annual solar jobs census. In 2019, that number increased to almost 250,000. 

Here in New York, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry employed almost 11,000 full-time workers, including 7,800 installers. Those numbers were up by more than 10 percent over the previous year, thanks, in part, to the Empire State’s clean energy policies. And even with the pandemic in full swing, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics lists solar installer as the third-fastest-growing profession in the U.S. “I recommend it to my friends,” says Minaya, whose employer is looking for workers even during these times of high unemployment. “The field teaches you different skills, and it’s good for the earth. Plus, it’s hiring a lot.”

Flipping the Switch at Uplands (6:02) With the support of Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, our offices in Cold Spring Harbor are now carbon neutral. Tune in as we flip the switch to a clean energy future at Uplands. 

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map