On September 27, Berks Nature announced the acquisition of a conservation easement on a farm in southern Schuylkill County, ensuring the protection of hundreds of acres of land from future development. At 342 acres, the conservation easement on Dennis and Pauline Fehr’s Wayne Township property makes it the second-largest in the 42-year history of Berks Nature. While Berks Nature is the holder of the easement, the protection of the property will continue to make significant contributions to regional agricultural sustainability and the thriving Schuylkill County Agricultural Land Program.
“None of us own anything–we just control it while we live on it,” Dennis Fehr said on a recent morning, overlooking his vast land at the base of the Kittatinny Ridge in Schuylkill County’s Schwartz Valley. “We could have heaven on Earth, for crying out loud, if we all behave and pitch in.”
Since purchasing their first 126 acre farm in 1967, the Fehrs have gone on to acquire an additional 200 acres as neighboring farms have come up for sale over the decades.
“We were never in farming to make a living,” Fehr said. “Farming is a hobby–something I really like to do, just to see nature. I’m dumbfounded by the beauty of nature.”
Together with Berks Nature, the Fehrs are looking to the future and making decisions so that future generations will have the chance to experience that natural beauty for years to come.
“Dennis and Polly have the respect for their community and the environment to do their part to keep it functioning for all of our benefit,” said Larry Lloyd, Berks Nature’s senior ecologist who worked with the couple on the conservation easement. “All Berks Nature conservation easements are individually worked out with the landowner. This particular landowner chose to have no further housing development on their property–no subdivision and no further housing, forever. And we monitor the conservation easement to uphold the terms of the easement.”
At present, the Fehrs grow corn, beans, hay, and alfalfa on their land, while tending some cattle. Though not certified as an organic farm, they follow many sustainable practices. They have invested in solar energy, and more recently, EnviroKure, a Philadelphia-based organic liquid fertilizer start-up.
“The Fehrs are putting their money where the future is–the only place the future can go,” Lloyd said. “Dennis and Polly are investing in organic food production, solar energy, and carbon sequestration with the planting of hundreds of trees on the property. They’re investing in keeping their land undeveloped. All these things are for the future, not just them. We’re going to need these spaces for food, water, and air.”
The acquisition of the Fehr easement adds to the more than 8,000 acres of land that Berks Nature has protected since its inception as the Berks County Conservancy in 1974.