Pennsylvania Celebrates 25 Years of Preserving Farmland

10/19/2013 7:00 AM

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania celebrated a milestone last week as it marked the 25th anniversary of the nation’s most successful farmland preservation program.

“We are witnessing history today, a history that every Pennsylvanian had a hand in writing,” said George Greig, state secretary of agriculture. “No other state has such a strong commitment to its farming future as Pennsylvania.’’

The state farmland preservation board preserved an additional 1,843 acres on 20 farms on Oct. 10 during a meeting at Spring House Farm in Mercersburg, Franklin County. The farm is owned by Jere and Angela Hissong.

Spring House Farm predates the Revolutionary War and was farmed by the Orbison family for more than a century before it was sold to the Hawbakers. More than 150 years later, the Hissongs purchased the property to continue agricultural production. The farm was one of the 20 protected at the meeting.

Andrew McElwaine, pres<\@>ident and CEO of American Farmland Trust was also at the meeting to present Franklin County dairy farmer John Koons Sr. with the organization’s Local Hero Award for his more than 60 years of dedication to farmland preservation and land conservation.

“John and Doris Koons, and their family represent the rock on which agriculture in the United States is built,” McElwaine said.

“John began no-till farming in 1969, long before others, becoming a demonstration site Penn State University used to teach others,” McElwaine said. “In 1992, he became the first farmer in Franklin County to preserve his farm; in fact, his was the 100th farm preserved in Pennsylvania.”

“As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation program and the fact that more than 480,146 acres and 4,492 farms have been permanently preserved here, we cannot forget farms are protected one at a time,” McElwaine said.

Here are the names of all the farms preserved last week, by county:

Adams — Jean Marie Arentz farm No. 4, a 78.25-acre crop farm.

Berks — Kenneth R. Bicksler farm No. 1, a 53.5-acre crop farm; Lynn A. and Deborah Dietrich farm No. 1, a 122.4-acre crop and livestock operation; Leroy H. and Lisa J. Hoover farm No. 1, a 74.8-acre crop and livestock operation; Mark. B. and Maryann F. Martin farm No. 1, a 12.8-acre crop farm; John B. and Alma Z. Weaver farm, an 85.6-acre crop and livestock operation; and Donald H. and Barbara J. Welch farm No. 1, a 26.8-acre crop farm.

Bucks — Kenneth S. and Marion C. Scheetz farm No. 1, a 56.14-acre crop farm.

Chester — Aaron W. Maule and Ashley M. Eckard farm, a 102.81-acre crop farm.

Fayette — Steven Kontaxes farm No. 1, a 73.23-acre crop farm.

Franklin — Sherwin Brechbill farm No. 1, a 106.34-acre crop and livestock operation; Sherwin Brechbill farm No. 2, a 75.85-acre crop farm; and Jere D. Jr. and Angela N. Hissong farm, a 123.76-acre crop farm.

Lancaster — Raymond Lee and Mary Ann King farm, an 82.6-acre crop and livestock operation.

Lycoming — Michael L. and Vanessa L. Sherman farm No. 2, a 21.89-acre livestock farm.

Montgomery — Gloria Pauline Marriott farm No. 1, an 87.83-acre crop farm.

Susquehanna — Mark L. and Judith A. Sartell farm, a 206.59-acre crop and livestock operation.

Union — Alan C. and Crystal L. Kaler farm, an 85.67-acre crop and livestock operation.

York — Robert B. and Judy K. Burchett farm No. 3, a 215.86-acre crop farm; and Harold R. Jr. and Nancy B. Miller farm No. 4, a 149.94-acre crop farm.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and American Farmland Trust.

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