A bit late to the party I am on posting this, but better late than never!
And here is the NJ Conservation Foundation press release, courtesy New Jersey Newsroom.
MANNINGTON TWP. — In a large field off of Sunset Drive Wednesday morning, a crowd gathered amongst the eggplant planted there to celebrate the preservation of 476 acres of agricultural and ecological land, which the Fichera family recently sold to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
The diverse property, which includes an 11-acre forested island in the Salem River, contains cultivated farmland, woods, tidal marshes and freshwater wetlands, and is a haven for birds and wildlife. The preservation will ensure the permanent protection of 279 acres for agriculture and nearly 200 acres in the Mannington Meadows for its rich natural resource value.
Greg Romano, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s assistant director and director of statewide land acquisition, said Wednesday his organization wanted to thank Frank Fichera, who sold the farm for preservation. He added this property was significant not only for its agricultural value, but for its natural resources as well.
Romano also commended Fichera for selling the property at less than market value. New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the property for $1.85 million, using funding from the state Agriculture Development Committee, the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the state Green Acres program and the William Penn Foundation.
Fichera has been farming all of his life and purchased the first piece of this farm in the 1960s, adding to it through the years. Under the lease with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, he will continue to farm the portion of the property that has been permanently preserved for agriculture.
“I wanted to preserve it because it’s an excellent farm with good soils,” said Fichera, who grows tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers on the farm. Fichera also owns two other farms in Mannington Township, farming a total of 350 acres, and said he has no plans to retire.
The Fichera property will be used by New Jersey Conservation Foundation to demonstrate the relationship between agriculture and natural resources, and to promote sustainable agriculture. A portion will be open to the public for nature observation, hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said he was proud to be a part of this cooperative project, which builds on the continuing effort to preserve farmland in Mannington Township and Salem County.
“Everyone here is part of a celebration,” he said. “They understand how much it means to preserve farmland and open space in the state. It is incredibly important.”