BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The Schmidt family may represent the start of a trend in the area — more farmers seeking the protection and benefits of a Agricultural Security Area.

Township Supervisor Bob Thompson said that he has received a couple of calls from people interested in including their properties in the township’s Agricultural Security Area because of the Farmland Preservation Program, which recently became available to farmers in Crawford County.

Under the preservation program, the farmers sell their development rights — not the farm itself — and are paid a fee per acre enrolled in the plan. Once the rights are sold, the property can only be used for agricultural purposes regardless of ownership.

Crawford County commissioners have appointed a board to chose which applications to send to the state, which has the final say on a property’s inclusion.

An extensive application process is done, which includes reviewing farm practices and soil quality.

The most important factor is the soil and its ability to sustain crops, according to Carl Pelino, conservationist with Crawford County Conserva-tion District, which administers the program.

The farm must also have gross earnings of $25,000 to qualify and must enroll a minimum of 50 acres.

Before a farm can be considered for inclusion, it must be located in an already established Agricultural Security Area. Crawford County currently has a total of 59,908 acres in Agricultural Security Areas.

Jeff and Mary Schmidt, and Jeff’s brother Michael Schmidt, are just beginning the first step by applying for their 92 acre diary farm to become part of the township’s Agricultural Security Area. Lost Acres Farm is located at 22363 South Beaver Road and has more than 200 cows.

The proposal is on file and available for public inspection at the Beaver Township office, 3298 Parker Road, Springboro, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays, or by appointment.

Any landowners who own land within, adjacent to or near the area proposed to be included in the addition to the Agricultural Security Area may suggest changes to the addition by contacting the Beaver Township office on or before Feb. 7. The proposal, and possible additions, are then submitted to the Beaver Township Planning Commission, the Crawford County Planning Commission and the Beaver Township Agricultural Security Advisory Committee for review and recommendation. A public hearing is then scheduled.

Mary Schmidt said the family’s main reason for applying is to preserve the land.

“First of all we wanted to make sure this ground was going to stay in dairy farming, in agriculture,” said Mary Schmidt. The financial benefits of the Farmland Preservation Program are also a motive, she said.

She said her father-in-law purchased the property in 1963, but she’s unsure why he didn’t apply to be included in the Agricultural Security Area when the township created it in the early 90s.

With her 20-year-old son Patrick Schmidt also interested in staying on the farm, Mary said she wants to make sure the land was preserved so that Lost Acres Farm will become a third generation farm.



Eric Reinagel can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 283 or by e-mail at ereinagel@meadvilletribune.com. Jane Smith contributed to this story.



WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Beaver Township supervisors will discuss property for inclusion in the Agricultural Security Area Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the township building. Anyone with questions concerning the Farmland Preservation Program can contact Kevin McCaslin with the Crawford County Conservation District at (814) 763-5269.

 

BREAKOUT BOX

What is an agricultural security area?

At least 250 acres are needed for a municipality to designate an Agricultural Security Area. The designation helps protect farmers from municipalities creating nuisance ordinances that would restrict normal farming operations. Security areas also limit the ability of government to condemn farmland for new schools, highways, parks or other governmental projects.

Source: Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association

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