In the biggest milestone yet for the nation’s most successful farmland preservation effort, Gov. Tom Corbett and Agriculture Secretary George Greig Thursday commemorated the preservation of more than a half-million acres of prime Pennsylvania farmland for future development.
“Today we celebrate an important, unprecedented milestone – not just for Pennsylvania, but for our nation,” said Corbett. “For more than a quarter-century our state has been investing in the future of its largest industry. Pennsylvania is leading by example by ensuring that the lands best suited for farming can be preserved for all time.”
The ceremony took place at Flinchbaugh’s Orchard in Hellam.
Four generations and 60 years after arriving in York County, the Flinchbaugh family of Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market preserved 235 acres of their 420 acre farm. The farm was identified for its fertile and productive soil, development pressure and use of conservation practices that safeguard the environment.
The family operation is the quintessential modern Pennsylvania farm, blending the latest high-efficiency agriculture practices with homespun service that meets the demands of the region’s East Coast consumers who want to buy fresh local products – complete with the logo of PA Preferred™, the official brand of products grown and made in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has invested nearly $1.3 billion in protecting 500,079 acres of the state’s best farmland on 4,704 farms in 57 participating counties since its state program was established in 1988. The program boasts the most preserved farms and acres of production farmland in the country.
The program’s success is due to widespread support from taxpayers who, in a statewide vote, funded bond issues that put Pennsylvania on the fast track to preserving farmland. In 2001, American Farmland Trust recognized Pennsylvania as the national leader in number of farms preserved as well as total acreage preserved.
“Preserving farmland requires a number of partners including landowners, county program administrators, our state staff and the volunteer board,” said Greig. “Because of this teamwork, we’re ensuring the continued success of the cornerstone of our state’s economy and keeping Pennsylvania growing for our next agriculturalists.”
Pennsylvania’s more than 59,000 farms are within a day’s drive of half of the United States’ population. Since 2007, Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s most productive non-irrigated soil, has lost more than 100,000 acres of farmland, and is down to 7.7 million acres in agricultural production.
Agriculture is the state’s largest industry, with $7.4 billion worth of products sold in 2012, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, and an estimated $74 billion in economic impact. One in seven Pennsylvania jobs are related to agriculture.
“We’ve ensured that this land will be able to provide its neighbors with fresh, local food for generations to come,” said Gov. Corbett. “We’re preserving a way of life for thousands of farm families.”For more information, visit Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation webpage.