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Farmland forever!

Jul 6, 2021

Last unpreserved farm in Rosemont Valley protected

DELAWARE TWP. – The last unpreserved working farm in the township’s scenic and historic Rosemont Valley – 64 acres of agricultural fields and wooded wetlands – now has the same protections as neighboring farms.

On June 23, New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the development rights on the Curtis farm along Rosemont-Ringoes Road (Route 604), ensuring that it will remain farmland forever. The Rosemont Valley stretches from New Jersey’s last original covered bridge, Green Sergeant’s Bridge, to the tiny hamlet of Rosemont.

“The Curtis farm was the proverbial hole in the doughnut that, if developed, would severely compromise the integrity and scenic beauty of the Rosemont Valley, which is on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director. “Preserving this beautiful farm has been a priority of New Jersey Conservation Foundation and our partners for 40 years, and it is wonderful to finally see it happen.”

Using funding from the State Agriculture Development Committee and Hunterdon County, New Jersey Conservation Foundation acquired the development rights from owners Richard Curtis and his son, Michael Curtis.

The Curtis family still owns the farm, but the 64 acres are now permanently restricted to agricultural uses. Local farmers grow hay and corn on the Curtis fields. An existing house and six barns on approximately three acres are not covered by the easement.

The Curtis farm is adjacent to the Fisher and Plesher farms, among the first farms preserved in New Jersey. In the early 1980s, at the start of the state Farmland Preservation Program, NJ Conservation teamed up with the Fisher family to preserve their two adjoining farms and launch the effort to save this historic and scenic valley from housing developments. NJ Conservation purchased what was then the Green-Johnson farm, sold the agricultural easement to Hunterdon County, and sold the preserved property to the Pleshers.

“The Curtis Farm and other nearby preserved lands are a treasured asset in the community and a prime example of how the state’s Farmland Preservation Program is so beneficial,” said NJ Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. “Conserving land like this for agriculture is essential for securing New Jersey’s farming heritage well into the future.”

Hunterdon County Commissioner Matt Holt, liaison for planning and land use, praised the farmland preservation project. “The Commissioners continue to pursue creative financing efforts with partner agencies and non-profits to permanently preserve the historic agricultural base in Hunterdon County,” he said. “The Curtis Farm in Delaware Township has long been a focus of various efforts; special thanks to the family and all involved in closing this important farm and ensuring viable agriculture in the Rosemont Valley for generations to come.”

Landowner Richard Curtis said he was happy to see the farm preserved. “It’s been in my family for well over 100 years, and my father grew up there,” said Curtis. “I never lived there myself, but it’s always been the family farm and it’s nice to know it will be there forever. And the area still looks the way it did many years ago, which is neat.”

The preservation of the Curtis farm helps protect the headwaters of a stream feeding into the Lockatong Creek, a Delaware River tributary. It also safeguards the wellhead protection area of the Rosemont Water Company. The landowner has agreed to an impervious cover limit to ensure that the property will remain open for water recharge, and will preserve the soils for farming and food production.

Preserving the land also protects the historic viewshed of the Rosemont Valley, which encompasses agricultural land use patterns and farmsteads dating back to 18th and 19th centuries. The Rosemont Rural Agricultural District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Rosemont Valley is an important scenic and historic feature of New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Wickecheoke Creek Greenway, an ever-growing mosaic of preserved open space and farmland in the region surrounding the Wickecheoke Creek. Connecting historic sites with their natural environment and protecting their viewsheds is a longstanding priority.

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director