Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Atlantic County has added another 58.4 acres of protected farmland to more than 8,000 acres currently dedicated for agriculture use with the recent $227,000 purchase of development easements for the Burke Farm in Mullica Township.
The property, identified as Block 903, lots 4-6, is owned by Frank L. Burke, III. It is one of seven farms in the township permanently preserved through the Atlantic County Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust. Together with two adjacent farms previously preserved, the three parcels represent over 177 contiguous acres of preserved blueberry farms. They are also adjacent to Wharton State Forest, adding to over 122,000 acres of preserved and protected land.
Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms in Atlantic County decreased from 499 to 402 representing a loss of nearly 1,000 acres, according to the 2012 US Department of Agriculture Census.
"It has never been more important to preserve farms and sustain our agricultural heritage if we are to remain the 'Garden State,'" stated County Executive Dennis Levinson. "The Farmland Preservation Program enables us to support our local farmers and protect our quality of life."
Landowners who participate in the county's farmland preservation program agree to sell their development rights but maintain ownership and the ability to continue farming. The state certifies the development values for each farm based on independent appraisals conducted by two licensed appraisers and a review by a staff appraiser.
Atlantic County officials noted that the county may be eligible for partial reimbursement of the acquisition costs from the State Agriculture Development Committee.