According to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the state “leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production.” The Department’s Bureau of Farmland Preservation has the goal of saving prime farmland and guaranteeing future food supply in the prospect of a healthier economy.
The movement for the preservation of farmlands is growing in Philadelphia’s surrounding counties, but there is a statewide effort. Montgomery County Farmland Preservation Program is an effort to use local, state and, if necessary, federal money to purchase the development rights of a farmers’ land. This keeps the land in use of commercial production of agriculture forever. Since 1991, the program has preserved 146 farms, totaling 8,638 acres. Within this preservation program, the farmers can sell or rent the land to other farmers, and they also may switch the farms’ purpose from livestock to crop, or even to flowers.
A local farm in the township of Plymouth Meeting, a mile from the King of Prussia Mall, is trying to be considered for the preservation program. The Maple Acres farm, owned by Gary McKeown, has been family-run for 97 years, and McKeown wants it to remain a farm forever. Maple Acres is the only working farm in the township.
On February 22, all three Montgomery County commissioners attended a “Keep Farming in Montgomery County” conference, which was headlined by Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary George Greig. Greig claimed that the Montgomery County Preservation Program is vital for the county because of the county’s ideal location, which he claims is an eight-hour truck drive to 50 percent of the U.S. population, and 60 percent of the Canadian population.
Montgomery County has a comprehensive plan to have 225 farms and 17,000 acres of farmland preserved by 2025.
Sources: www.philly.com, www.agriculture.state.pa.us