|With the help of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Warren County has preserved its 300th farm, the Hart family farm in Franklin Township.
A third-generation family farm that primarily grows corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, the 388-acre farm along the Pohatcong Creek adjoins several other preserved farms to create an impressive agricultural belt consisting of more than 743 contiguous acres of permanently protected land.
The Hart Farm is mostly tillable, with about 270 acres of “prime soils” and “soils of statewide importance,” the two highest classifications for crop production.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation worked with the owners and Warren County to help ensure the land’s permanent preservation. “We are thrilled to help preserve this beautiful, productive farm along the Pohatcong Creek, and congratulate Warren County on its 300th farm preserved,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director.
Corey Tierney, Director of Preservation for Warren County, noted that the preservation of the Hart Farm coincided with the release of a report by the American Farmland Trust, revealing that 11 million acres of agricultural land nationwide were paved over, fragmented, or converted to other uses between 2001 and 2016.
However, the report ranks New Jersey Number 1 in the nation for utilizing a number of tools to help protect its farmland and farmers. Chief among them is the state’s successful farmland preservation program.
“By preserving farms like this one, the Garden State continues to lead the nation and keep its nickname alive,” said Byers. “But as the nation’s most densely populated state, New Jersey’s farmland is also especially vulnerable to development pressures.”
“With this farm, Warren County’s farmland preservation program now totals just over 26,398 acres,” said Tierney. “Although this sounds like a lot, and it is, to put that in perspective Warren County is about 230,000 acres in size, so we’ve only preserved about 11 percent of the county’s total land mass as farmland, or about 36 percent of the 72,000 acres of productive farmland that remains.”
“This farm, and those around it, have some of the best soils in the state. But they also sit on the edge of some very developed areas in Greenwich and Franklin,” said Warren County Freeholder Director Richard D. Gardner. “We really only have so much prime farmland left in Warren County, so it’s important we protect these fertile lands while we still can. And we have been very aggressive, for many years, about doing just that – but we must keep at it,” Gardner added.
“Not only are we protecting productive soils for future generations, but our farmers are hardworking people who often reinvest the proceeds from preservation back into their operations. Whether that’s to buy equipment, supplies, or even more land, this helps to keep our farms growing and ensures that we’ll always have access to locally grown produce and farm products,” added Freeholder James R. Kern III.
About New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since its inception in 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks. For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).