This post comes courtesy Courier-Post Online.com
Burlington County preserves more land
MOUNT HOLLY — The county that leads in farmland preservation in New Jersey now has preserved more than 25,000 acres of farmland with its latest purchases.
Burlington County added eight more farms to its preservation list last week and also sold five preserved farms to owners who must keep the land in agriculture.
The county approved payment of $4 million for 701 acres on eight farms, including three in Pemberton Township and several within the Pinelands.
Approval for the settlements came at a recent meeting of the county board of freeholders.
Mary Pat Robbie, director of the county department of resource conservation, said this boosts the total number of acres beyond 25,000 throughout the county– largest county in square miles in the state.
“What we are seeing with preserved farms and those we have sold at auction is that farmers are continuing to in land and agriculture,” she said.
She said farmers are using some of their preservation payments from the county to reinvest in more agricultural land.
“That is exactly what we want to see,” she said.
The county pays the potential development value to preserve farms using one of two methods — purchasing a property easement banning all non-agricultural development or buying a farm outright and then either using it for open space or preservation programs, or selling it at auction.
The eight newly bought farms are Ditullio in Mansfield; Black Dog, Bush and Stevenson, all in Pemberton Township; Kucowksi in North Hanover; Alloway Family LP in Shamong; and Haines in Tabernacle.
Last week the county also approved a February auction sale that netted $2.9 million for five farms totaling 731 acres and drew a crowd of 150 people.
Three of those farms are in Springfield. The others are in Hainesport and Shamong. Four are crop farms and Aristone, a horse farm in Shamong, is the first farm ever preserved in that municipality.
Freeholder-Director Bruce Garganio said income from this auction will be used to preserve other farms within the county.
The county its purchases with a dedicated property tax of four cents for every $100 of assessed private land in the county.
This tax for farmland, open space and historic preservation was approved by voters and raises millions of tax dollars every year.
Most purchases involve a state matching grant and, in some cases, a lesser match from a municipality.
“By transferring this farmland back into private ownership, the county is helping to ensure the long-term viability of the agricultural industry within it while minimizing the county’s management expense and taxpayer cost,” Garganio said.
Gloucester County farmer Peter Gasko of Monroe paid the most for the auctioned farms— $745,000 for the Ziegler/Walder farm on Juliustown Road in Springfield.
Crop farmer Christopher Probasco of Chesterfield, who already farms many acres in Burlington County, bought the 126-acre BF&W Farm that he already was leasing from the county.
Probasco said he likes to buy farms that need work but have good soil like this one because it can be purchased for less than the cost of a manicured farm.
“We also farm right next to it, so for efficiency reasons it also makes sense and we’ll install some hedgerows and some drainage,” he said.