With the help of the Environmental Stewardship Fund, an 89-acre farm in Montgomery County—owned by a developer who planned to subdivide the property—was permanently preserved. The protection of this land added to a block of more than 300 acres of preserved farmland in the area.
Scott Clemens and his wife, Sloane Six, purchased the farm from the developer in 2007 and permanently protected it in 2008. The preserved land, now known as Quarry Hill Farm, is located in a part of Lower Salford Township that has been actively farmed for generations. Clemens and Six had lived on property adjacent to Quarry Hill Farm for over a decade, and Clemens’ family farmed in the county for five generations.
“We felt it was important to preserve this property in order to keep this part of the township as a farming community,” explained Six.
The property was only weeks away from development when Clemens and Six made their purchase. “Residential bulldozers were at the ready,” Six recalled. “We decided to purchase the property at the ninth hour.” The protection of this land was made possible by Montgomery County’s Farmland Preservation Program, which receives funding from the Environmental Stewardship Fund. Six emphasized that without the county program, the opportunity to purchase and preserve this land would have never arisen.
Clemens and Six approached Montgomery County about protecting their property in 2007 and filed an application to be considered for the county’s farmland preservation program. The program uses conservation easements to permanently protect properties like Quarry Hill Farm, ensuring their agricultural production for future generations. A landowner’s participation in the program is voluntary and based on their own personal objectives and vision for the land.
“Each applicant is measured against the same scale and those with the highest ratings are accepted into the program,” said Elizabeth Emlen, senior farmland preservation administrator for the county. “The program’s acceptance criteria are very fair and straightforward.”
The rating system has four major components: soil suitability, farming potential, development pressure, and proximity to other farms. The minimum size to be accepted into the program is 10 acres, but according to Emlen, the county prefers tracts over 35 acres in size. Final acceptance into the program is determined by the county farm board, which consists of five members who represent the county as well as the farming and development communities.
Quarry Hill Farm achieved the highest rating among the 47 farms eligible for the program in 2008. Based on this rating, the county—in conjunction with the state and township—agreed to purchase conservation easements on the property. Six and her husband’s experience with the county’s preservation program was extremely positive.
“Elizabeth’s help throughout the whole application process was key,” said Six. “The township as well was great in their support for our farm.”
According to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture, agriculture in Montgomery County is a $30 million annual industry. In addition to its importance to the local economy, farmland also has much lower costs of community services than developed land—farms provide more tax revenue for local governments than they require in service costs, while housing developments require more in services than they generate in taxes.
“We are strong believers in organic farming and feel it is important to strengthen local and sustainable farming,” explained Six. To this end, Six and her husband are becoming increasingly involved with a local food co-op and have planted an orchard and introduced livestock on the farm.