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67 acres of Hopewell Valley Vineyards land preserved


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Lisa MacCollum
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP - Anyone who has savored the scenic views of Hopewell Valley Vineyards while sampling master vintner Sergio Neri's award-winning wines probably couldn't imagine the land as anything but agricultural.

They'll never have to.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners just preserved 67 acres of the Hopewell Valley Vineyards property off Yard Road in Pennington, ensuring it will remain farmland forever.

We've been working on it for 10 years, so we're glad we finally preserved it,said the Italian-born Neri, who runs the vineyard with his wife, Violetta.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation used grants from the State Agriculture Development Committee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to purchase the development rights on the property. The land will continue to be owned by the Neris, but is permanently limited to agricultural use.

I believe in farmland preservation. I think it's good for the state, and for the country in general,commented Neri. Otherwise it's easy for farmers, especially in this economy, to give up to development and speculation.

The newly-preserved property includes 20 acres of grape vineyards, 20 acres of fields planted in wheat, rye and soybean, and woods surrounding the fields. The winery buildings on 6.6 acres are not included in the farmland easement.

We're thrilled to be able to preserve this beautiful property to make sure it will always be agricultural,said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. We commend Sergio and Violetta Neri for deciding to preserve their land, and wish them continuing success with their winery.

The Neris grow seven varieties of grapes in their vineyards, and use them to make 15 types of wine, including sangiovese, pinot grigio, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, porto rosso, chambourcin and spumante secco. The winery has won numerous international, national and regional wine-making awards.

Neri bought the vineyard's first 25 acres in the late 1990s and added another 50 acres a few years later. We built everything from scratch,he noted.

Neri said he and his wife, who both come from wine-making families, work hard to make their vineyard a destination for visitors. We do a lot of tastings, and we host a lot of events,he said.

People think it's very romantic to run a vineyard - and it is!he added. But like any farming activity, it's a lot of hard work. For us, it's demanding but fun.

We're delighted to work with New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the State Agriculture Development Committee and the Neris to preserve another farm in New Jersey,said Carrie Mosley, State Conservationist for the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service. Opportunities like this take some of the pressure off of family farms such as Hopewell Valley Vineyard and protect valuable natural resources in New Jersey to continue to produce food and fiber.

We were pleased to partner in the preservation of this land to ensure that it always will be available to support diverse and thriving farming operations and a strong agricultural industry, which contribute so much to the economy and our way of life in the Garden State,said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher, who chairs the State Agriculture Development Committee that administers New Jersey's Farmland Preservation Program.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, it has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation's programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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