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The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders has given preliminary approval for six new farms to enter into the County’s Farmland Preservation Program, including four that are part of a critical land buffer around New Jersey’s largest military installation.
Through the program, the County will make offers to purchase the development rights for the properties in order to have them deed restricted to remain in agriculture but the farmers will retain ownership of the land.
The six properties total 346 acres and are expected to boost the total acreage of preserved farmland in the county to 63,064 acres.
Currently, Burlington County is ranked No. 1 in New Jersey for acres of farmland preserved and No. 7 in the nation.
“Burlington County has such a wonderful agricultural heritage and our board is 100% committed to keeping farming a vibrant industry here for both our current and future generations,” said Freeholder Linda Hynes, the board’s liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation. “Preserving farmland and open space is a win-win for everyone. Not only does it keep agriculture viable in our state and maintain our county’s scenic landscapes, but it can also help protect the mission of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.”
The farms received preliminary approval Wednesday night during the board’s regular meeting. They are:
All six farms are eligible to enter the preservation program and were recommended by the Burlington County Agricultural Development Board for pre-approval. They also ranked high enough to qualify for the state to cover 60% of the costs for acquiring the lands’ development rights.
Four of the farms – the Roohr, Emmons Home, Emmons West and Columbus Farmers Market – are located within a 5-mile military buffer zone around Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and are eligible for military funding to cover up to 50% of the preservation costs.
The buffer helps to minimize security issues and reduce land-use conflicts, including limiting development, between the base and nearby communities.
Since 2008, the county has preserved 32 farms totaling 2,229 acres in the buffer zone.
“With more than 40,000 service members and civilian employees, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is unquestionably a critical asset both for our nation’s security and for Burlington County and New Jersey’s overall economy,” Hynes said. “By partnering with the military to preserve these farms, we’re able to help the base and our farming communities.”
The County’s share of the preservation expense will come from the county’s dedicated tax for open space, farmland and historic preservation, which was approved by voters during referendums in 1996, 1998 and 2006. The Freeholders reduced the tax from 3 cents per $100 of assessed property value from 2 cents per $100 earlier this year.