On June 13, Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board announced the preservation of 47 farms across Pennsylvania.
“Preserving farmland is a team effort among diverse groups united in our effort to spare the state’s best agricultural soils from development,” said Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Together we help farmers to take an important step toward securing a future for their operations. This meeting is the culmination of an important chapter in the stories of 47 farm families from all corners of Pennsylvania.”
The board preserved 47 farms covering 3,561 acres across 21 counties: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Lycoming, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, Tioga, Union, and Westmoreland. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,540 farms totaling 569,767 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.
Farms included the Luxor Farm in Westmoreland County, owned by the Heinnickel family, who have received awards including Conservation Farmer of the Year and Outstanding Farmer Cooperator. As the region experienced a coal boom in the late 1800s, the farm tended horses that worked the region’s mines. Today the Heinnickels raise beef cattle and crops.
The Marvin and Catherine Teter farm in Schuylkill County was preserved through a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program reimburses up to half of the easement purchase price of qualifying farms, freeing county funds to purchase additional easements.
Mark and Marie Canon operate a progressive eighth-generation dairy in Mercer County, modernized in 2016 to include a robotic milking system. The Canons welcome schoolchildren to the farm to educate them on how food gets from the farm to the table. Marie was named 2018 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. Funding allows state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements from owners of quality farmland. State, county, local, and federal funds committed at today’s meeting are allocated to county programs to purchase development rights to preserve farms on county waiting lists.