We recently helped preserve farmland in the Highlands of New Jersey that total 150-acres of privately owned land. Why is farmland important? The preservation of farms helps anchor the farm economy. Not only does it ensure the continued availability of working farmland, but also supports the local economy by providing land owners with liquid capital that they can reinvest in their farm operations.
In Warren County, an easement was acquired for a 97-acre hay farm through a grant from the New Jersey Highlands Council and State of New Jersey’s State Agriculture Development Committee. Funding was also contributed by Frelinghuysen Township. Warren County assisted in the closing and will own and monitor the easement.
Known as Dark Moon Farm, this scenic and productive farm has valued natural features and the property adjoins Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve, which is one of the most species rich natural areas in New Jersey and managed by The Nature Conservancy. The farm has been with the Pittenger family since 1944. Ron and Sharon Pittenger and three generations of their family currently reside on the property. Ron grew up on the farm and Sharon was raised not too far from the property. They have been married for 52 years and raised their two daughters on Dark Moon Farm. Having their life long home treasured for its beauty, they are pleased to have their property preserved as farmland and protected from development.
In White Township, we assisted in preserving 53-acres of land that features stunning views of the surrounding rural landscape, including the Delaware Water Gap. There are rolling fields of hay and corn intermingled with forestlands and a variety of evergreen Christmas trees for the commercial market. Funding of this project was made possible through the State of New Jersey’s Municipal Planning Incentive Grant. (Muni-PIG)
The Muni-PIG is a program within the State of New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture. It enables the State Agriculture Development Committee to provide grants to eligible counties and municipalities to purchase development easements for permanent preservation of farmland in designated project areas.
Known as DeBoer Farm, this property will extend a preserved farm belt in this portion of the Township to ensure it retains its rural character. Since producers rely on a plentiful supply of working lands, agriculture can continue to flourish in this part of Warren County. White Township is a hub for agricultural activity and is adjacent to towns such as Phillipsburg, Washington Borough and Hackettstown which offers local farmers easy access to potential buyers and markets.
Preservation of farmland is crucial to not only the Highlands of New Jersey, but to virtually any rural community across the nation. By having working farms, it protects food production, maintains direct and indirect opportunities of employment and helps keep money in local communities. It also protects open spaces from development and minimizes urban sprawl.