LOWER SALFORD PA – The 28-acre Sheldon Derstine farm on Old Sumneytown Pike, held by members of his family for nearly 60 years, has been added “to the growing list of permanently preserved farm properties” within Montgomery County under its Agricultural Land Preservation Program, the county Planning Commission announced Wednesday (Sept. 28, 2016).
The Derstines operate a crop farm that harvests corn, wheat, and hay. It’s surrounded by several other preserved farms.
Under the land preservation program, which began in 1990, farm owners sell agricultural easements from their productive farms to the county. The owners keep their land, but no longer retain rights to develop those properties for non-farm uses. The land must remain farmed in perpetuity. Owners are free to sell the land, but new owners must continue to farm it as well.
The Derstine farm becomes the 158th farm to be preserved, representing the conservation of more than 9,250 farmland acres in the past 26 years. Montgomery County is one of 58 counties participating in this voluntary state program.
Preserving farmland continues to be a priority statewide. Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture preserved its 5,000th farm, and with local municipalities continues to help fund the county-administered program.
Farming has played a significant role in the county’s history, but also is part of what the Planning Commission says it sees as the county’s sustainable future. It considers preserving farmland and farming as important for the economy, environment, and local food availability. Adding the Derstine farm to the preservation list “helps to implement the land use vision plan in the county’s award-winning comprehensive plan,” it said.
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