Pa. farm preservationist encourages Land Trust Novel thinking, hard work needed, members told

March 26, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Preserving farmland from development takes creative thinking and hard work, but not necessarily a lot of money, the director of a Lancaster, Pa., program said last night.

"I know most of you are here because of your attachment, your appreciation for agriculture," Alan R. Musselman, executive director of the Lancaster Farmland Trust, told about 30 people at the Agriculture Center in Westminster.

Mr. Musselman, a Maryland native and advocate for farmland preservation, spoke at a meeting of the Carroll County Land Trust and wished members well in organizing a group similar to his.

The Lancaster Farmland Trust has preserved 42 farms, or 3,000 acres, in about four years, he said. The total amount of farmland preserved in Lancaster County through private and public programs is 256,000 acres, or about one-third of the county's total land, he said.

The Carroll County Land Trust, a nonprofit group that plans to use private money to preserve farmland, is just starting its work, President Janice Teeter said. It was formed because the county needed alternatives to the state's "ag-land" preservation program after the state budget deficit all but depleted the program's budget in the past few years.

Carroll has the most successful governmental farmland preservation program in the country, according to the American Farmland Trust in Washington The county has preserved about 20,000 acres permanently and has another 20,000 acres in five-year districts.

"We view agriculture as a principal community asset," Mr. Musselman said.

The average cost for the Lancaster trust to preserve farmland is $141.18 per acre, he said. Its operating budget is $230,000 a year.

The trust takes an active role in fighting certain development, such as highways and toxic-waste facilities, that threatens agriculture, Mr. Musselman said.

It has provided scholarships for the children or grandchildren of farmers willing to have their land protected.

"We've been proactive. We've been reactive. We've been investors. As a result, we've been able to accomplish things," he said.

The Carroll County trust has a 17-member board of farmers, bankers, lawyers and others.

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