by Gary Mount
The Mount family is celebrating the permanent preservation of our 26-acre pick your own orchard on Van Kirk Rd this winter.
This means that all four of the farms that we farm on Cold Soil and on Van Kirk Roads are now permanently preserved. The importance of this to us can hardly be overstated. To plan for the future and to maintain a viable farm enterprise, farmers need stability, especially those who grow permanent crops such as our apples, peaches, pears, cherries and berries.
Farmland Preservation is many good ideas in one program. In New Jersey, the Program started with legislation and a bond referendum in 1981. It was designed to slow conversion of farmland to development and to assure a viable farming industry for the future. However, it got off to a slow start. In our county it was about five years before we had our first applicant, the former Ed Hendrickson dairy farm which is now a thriving nursery. As a preserved farm, it does not require additional municipal services, such as education for the families who might have lived there had it been developed. The farm provides open space for the whole community. And it helps a viable farm business to continue into the future. The crops grown on New Jersey’s preserved farms do not have to be trucked in – they are grown right here.
After the slow start, the program has become very active. To date about one billion dollars has been spent. More than 1,700 farms have been preserved – almost 179,000 acres! This makes New Jersey a national leader in farmland preservation.
Of even stronger importance to us is the meaning of permanence to the next generation of our farm family. We are lucky to have children who are interested in our farm business. It remains to be seen how they will continue with the farm as their lives change and their families grow. But having the land available to farm is the basic building block.
For us to preserve a farm means giving up something. We get paid by the government to do it, but we give up the opportunity to sell to a developer who would most times pay more. But we still own the land and it is available to us for farming. The money we get will be used for farm improvements – namely a new barn and apple cold storage, which is a long time dream. More about that in the next newsletter. Happy Holidays!