Maple Acres Farm in Plymouth was one of 40 farms in the state protected at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board exemplify the diversity of the state’s agriculture products and the people that grow them, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.
“Our diversity as a state extends far beyond our people to our geography, our products, our production styles, and the options that our land can be used for,” said Redding. “It’s important to take pause and consider the implications of transforming farmland into developed land, which is what our state board and hundreds of other administrators and volunteers across the state deliberate on as well. With this meeting, 38 farm families have entered into a covenant that ensures that more than 2,700 acres will remain in production agriculture – a win for all Pennsylvanians for many decades to come.”
The board preserved 40 farms covering 2,760 acres across 17 counties: Allegheny, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster Lebanon, Lehigh, Mercer, Mifflin, Montgomery, Northampton, and Union. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,580 farms totaling 572,527 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.
The farms include Maple Acres farm, owned by Gary McKeown, in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, a produce and flower operation whose preservation is considered by the community as a victory for local agriculture.
“Each acre of land comes with the stories of generations of agriculturalists, and now we know that new chapters will be added on those farms in the future,” added Redding.
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 the meeting are allocated to county programs to purchase development rights to preserve farms on county waiting lists.
These investments in preserving farmland for future production will be further enhanced by investments Governor Wolf signed through the PA Farm Bill. It created the Agriculture Business Development Center to support business planning, marketing, diversification, and transition planning for Pennsylvania farmers. The bill package also included a realty transfer tax exemption for the transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
“I’ve often said that the preservation of farmland is just one step in securing a viable future for agriculture in Pennsylvania,” Redding added. “We need to give farm families the tools they need to succeed today and plan for the future. The components of the PA Farm Bill, which received bipartisan support, aim to do just that. I thank Governor Wolf and the members of the legislature for their work. We’ve already begun to implement some programs, with the rest soon to follow. I look forward to seeing them improve the climate for agriculture and our commonwealth’s food system.”