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Four more Franklin Co. farms protected

April 19, 2000|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Four years ago, Harry and Ruth Hamil applied to get their 200-acre farm in Montgomery Township protected by Pennsylvania's Farmland Preservation Board.

Harry Hamil died in 1998, but the couple's dream came true last week when the State Farmland Preservation Board took the land into the program.

"I do not want to see it developed. I want it to remain in agriculture as a memorial to my parents and my husband," Ruth Hamil said Tuesday. She and her husband bought the farm about 20 years ago from her parents, Jere and Ruth Witter, who bought it in 1937.

"I gave up teaching to farm. My husband gave up international construction work to farm," said Hamil, who now runs the farm with her nephew, Jere Hissong.

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Hamil's farm was among four in Franklin County accepted into the program last week, according to County Senior Planner Sherri Clayton. The four farms total 638 acres, she said.

Since the program began in 1989, 27 farms totaling 3,984 acres have been preserved with the county and state purchasing the development rights, according to County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott. Statewide the figure is 1,294 farms with 160,036 acres.

At the beginning of the year, Gov. Tom Ridge set a goal of preserving another 100 farms in 100 days, Elliott said. That goal was met with 101 farms in 26 counties being accepted as of last week.

"We're hoping to settle on 12 farms this year, which means we have to present seven more to the state," Clayton said. Along with the four farms last week, another farm was accepted in January.

Clayton said development rights to the land cost $913,421, or about $1,400 an acre. The price is based on the difference between the appraised value of the land and what it would be worth if sold for commercial development.

Clayton said 90 percent of the money came from the state, which funds agricultural preservation with a cigarette tax. Last year the county budgeted $140,000 for agricultural preservation and received more than $500,000 from the state. The county also got another $1.4 million in a special supplemental allocation from the state.

To preserve another seven farms and more than 1,000 acres to reach the 5,000-acre goal, Clayton said the county will rely on its 2000 budget of $200,000 and another $743,000 in state funds.

A ranking system is used to determine which farms are preserved, Clayton said. That includes the quality of the soil and the development pressure on the land.

Hamil said there is a housing development next to her farm and a larger one down the road. The farm also has "a lot of road frontage," which increases that pressure.

Dolores Daugherty said that was also true of 131.5 acres of land that she and her husband, Glenn, own near Hamil's farm. Their farm was also accepted into the program.

"At the rate it's going, there soon won't be any open land left. We contend with quite a few houses around here," she said.

"Our son is the third generation on this farm. It's been in the family since 1948," Daugherty said.

Clayton said the other two farms, belonging to A. Henry and Joan Brechbill and Eugene and Virginia Hege, will preserve a block of prime soil in the Duffield area of Guilford Township.

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