TOWSON – Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced on Wednesday that his administration has advanced the preservation of the County’s open space and agricultural heritage with the purchase of five agricultural preservation easements located in northern Baltimore County and along the eastern waterfront.
The purchase of these five farms, totaling 323 acres, was approved at Monday night’s County Council meeting, and will be purchased through the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. This brings the County’s total preserved lands to 61,928 acres, moving the County further toward its goal of preserving 80,000 acres.
Since entering office, County Executive Kamenetz has maintained his commitment to land preservation with a total of 3,397 acres preserved in fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013 through all land preservation programs.
“Baltimore County has long been recognized as a national leader for its commitment to Smart Growth and this type of direct land preservation is one of the cornerstones of our efforts,” said Kamenetz. “Preserving undeveloped green space and farmland is one of the most effective ways to protect drinking water supplies and the quality of the streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. I truly appreciate the personal commitment that farmers make to protect the land.”
“I am very pleased that the County is moving forward to preserve farmland and open space, particularly in these still challenging fiscal times,” said 3rd District Councilman Todd Huff.
The County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability manages the County’s land preservation initiative, utilizing a number of different programs and employing matching funds from both the State and Federal government. In this case the County is providing $636,184 to match State funds for the purchase of these five easements at a total cost of $2.5 million.
Vince Gardina, Director of Environmental Protection and Sustainability said, “A very important component of the easements are requirements that farmers install and maintain best management practices to conserve soil and protect water quality, which assists the County in reaching its State and Federal water quality obligations.”
The five farms include:
· Green Valley Training Center – 87.8-acre equestrian farm in Long Green Valley,
· Zahradka Farm – 71-acre vegetable operation on Holly Neck in Eastern Baltimore County,
· Greenland Farm, et al. LLC – 82.59-acre vegetable and grain farm in Freeland,
· Merryman – Gilmore Farm- 59.79-acre equestrian operation in My Lady’s Manor,
· Kern Farm – 22.28-acre grain farm in White Hall.
“We appreciate how the County Executive and County Council continue to support landowners seeking to permanently preserve their farms,” said Gail Ensor, Chairperson of the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board. “Farming is still an important part of the County’s economy as well as a key component of the rural landscape. These preserved farms typify the diversity of farming in the County and the benefits derived from these farms such as fresh produce, opportunities for horse riding and training, and protection of the rolling hills and valleys.”
Rick Bernstein, co-founder of First Fruits Farm, Inc. operates a portion of Greenland Farm that is being preserved. The other portion of Greenland Farm is operated by Rick Tracy for grain production for livestock and commodities.
When asked about the importance of the easement, Bernstein said, “Since our founding in 2004, First Fruits Farm, Inc. has provided over six million pounds of produce to area food banks, shelters, and missions. In an area such as Baltimore County, productive farmland is not easy to find or inexpensive. Being able to purchase such land to enlarge our mission of serving people in need is critical as the demand for food assistance continues to grow. The easement program allows a farming ministry such as ours, to acquire this land through extinguishing the development rights and permanently preserving the farm.”
Holly Gilmore, in response to her farm being selected for an easement, said, “We are very excited to be received into the land preservation program. My grandparents bought our farm in 1953 and it was their life dream. My parents settled here when they got married and my brother and I were raised here. My parents retired and I have continued my passion with the horses and teaching others to ride. The farm is a safe haven for so many and a sanctuary for others. I promised my grandfather I would preserve and take care of the farm to the best of my ability. God has provided the ways to do just that. Land preservation is one more step in this journey as stewards of the land and farm.”
The State and County will be taking applications for the next Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation easement cycle in the spring of 2014. Information and applications are available on the Baltimore County website.