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Preserving 'a good way of life' in Warren County


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Ingrid Vandegaer
POHATCONG TWP.- Rustic Acres Farm has been in Beverly Bowers'' family since the 1930s, and it was important to her to have the 49-acre property stay green and productive forever.

"Agriculture is a good way of life,"said Beverly. "We just felt we wanted to keep it as farmland."

With assistance from New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the farm is now permanently preserved. Beverly and her husband Russ recently sold the development rights to Warren County, meaning that while the family still owns Rustic Acres, the land is now restricted to agricultural use.

That suits Beverly and Russ just fine. They're semi-retired, but keep busy growing bedding plants and vegetable seedlings in their greenhouse, raising goats, and selling water garden supplies like pond liners and fish. They also make grave blankets from evergreens on the farm, rent fields to a farmer who grows corn and soybeans, and sell homegrown vegetables when available.

"We still like to be involved in growing and working in the dirt,"explained Beverly.

Partners in Preservation

The agriculture easement on the property was purchased through a partnership between New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Warren County, the State Agriculture Development Committee and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation contributed part of the grant it received through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, thus reducing the amount needed from Warren County taxpayers.

"We were very pleased to assist Warren County in preserving a farm that has been in the same family for many decades,"said Michele Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "It's great to know this property will always remain in farming."

"Warren County has a long history of working with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and once again we are pleased to be able to save another local farm operation by leveraging the county's open space funding to the best advantage of our taxpayers,"said Warren County Freeholder Rick Gardner.

"We were happy to assist in the preservation of Rustic Acres Farm, which furthers all our cooperative efforts to protect the land that will keep agriculture strong and growing, and to retain New Jersey's family farms and all that they contribute to our communities,"said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher, who chairs the State Agriculture Development Committee.

"We are glad for the opportunity to partner with the New Jersey Conservation to help preserve Rustic Acres through our agency's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program,"said Carrie Mosley, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"The program's aim is to help keep productive farmland in agricultural use,"Mosley added. "The Bowers' farm consists of 97 percent prime and important New Jersey soils, is located in the NJ Highlands Preservation Area and is adjacent to Pohatcong Creek, a Category 1 stream, making its preservation especially valuable for New Jersey."

"In Warren County, agriculture isn't just a way of life - it's a more than $75 million dollar a year industry. It supports many ancillary businesses while requiring very little in the way of municipal services,"added Corey Tierney, the county's land preservation director. "Not only are we protecting productive soils for future generations, but farmers often reinvest the proceeds from preservation back into their operations to buy equipment, supplies and even more land. This helps keep agriculture viable."

To date, Warren County has helped preserve 229 farms totaling over 21,316 acres. We have made tremendous progress over the years, but to put that in perspective there are about 230,000 total acres in Warren County, 75,000 acres of which are productive farmland. Our goal is to preserve another 10,000 to 15,000 acres over the next 10 years,explained Tierney.

"In pursuit of that goal, we currently have 50 farms totaling over 3,600 acres which are pending in some state of the application process. However, we are quickly drawing down the last of our state matching grants so we are anxious to see what happens in Trenton. In the meantime, we have been looking for ways to stretch our dollars further and NJCF has been instrumental in helping us secure additional federal funding for this farm and several others. We appreciate all their hard work,"said Tierney.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, the Foundation 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 programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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