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Pa. county preserves more farmland

September 07, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Robert and Kathy Hartung once owned a dairy farm in New Jersey but now, she said, "It's 300 houses."

A similar fate is unlikely to befall the 336-acre Montgomery Township farm they purchased in 1989, which in August was accepted into the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

"We're using the finances to purchase more land," Kathy Hartung said Wednesday. "It was strictly because we want to expand for our sons," Robert Jr. and Thomas, partners in the Rohart Farms, she said.

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The operation includes a herd of about 500 dairy cattle and about 250 acres of cropland, she said. County and state funds were used to purchase the development easements on the property for $425,265, or about $1,265 an acre.

The price is based on the difference in the value of the land if it remains in agriculture and its value if sold for development, said Sherri Clayton a senior planner with the Franklin County Planning Department.

To be eligible for the program, a farm must have at least 50 contiguous acres, have prime soils and be part of an agricultural security area within a township, she said. More than 60 other farms have pending applications for the program, she said.

The 78-acre farm of Richard and Laura Anderson in Montgomery and Peters townships also was approved for the program Aug. 25 at a cost of $149,547, according to county figures.

They became the third and fourth county farms added to the program this year, bringing to 56 the number of farms preserved in the county since 1992. The total preserved acreage is now 7,791, according to the county.

Approximately two-thirds of the preserved land in the county is in the Mercersburg area, where the best soils are, Clayton said. The concentration of preserved land will keep agricultural sustainable, because those farms can support the farm equipment, feed and other businesses that they also need to survive economically.

Statewide, 2,687 farms totaling 308,461 acres have been approved for preservation, according to County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott, a member of the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Board. The Hartung farm was the largest of 37 farms approved by the board at its Aug. 25 meeting, he said.

The county and state have spent almost $11 million on farmland preservation in the county since 1992, according to county figures.

Elliott announced recently that the county will receive an additional $423,964 from the state this year for farmland preservation, bringing the amount set aside for farmland preservation to $2,270,121. That includes $1 million the county allocated for the program.

Purchasing the easements on one of the four county farms approved for the program cost the county considerably less. The development rights to the Richard Scott farm in Washington Township cost the county $1, Clayton said.

"They just wanted it preserved for future generations," Clayton said.

Hartung said her family is looking at future generations, as well. A grandson, Robert Hartung III, "is here from 6 in the morning to 6 at night when school is out and he's here with a big grin on his face."

Farming is not an easy way of life, but Kathy Hartung said it is in their blood.

"My father used to tell me farming is like a terminal illness," she said. "You live with it and you die with it."

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