Monday, August 31, 2020

Heritage Conservancy Facilitates Preservation Of Highly Visible, 97-acre Farm In Bedminster Twp., Bucks County

On August 31, working in partnership with Bucks County and Bedminster Township, the Heritage Conservancy facilitated the placement of a conservation easement on a 97-acre farm in Bedminster Township. 
Owned by the Blue Rock Investment Corporation, the property is located at the intersection of Routes 313 and 113 and features nearly 3,500 feet of road frontage that contributes to Bucks County’s landscapes. 
Community members will recognize this active farm as the property across from Weis Markets. It contains cornfields and a hardwood forest consisting predominantly of hickory nut trees, both of which serve as food sources for the community. 
Because of its heavily-trafficked location and its surrounding built environment, the property was highly susceptible to development. 
With the placement of this conservation easement, the Blue Rock Farm and its prime agricultural soils of statewide significance are protected forever.
The Blue Rock Investment Corporation is made up of the Rocco family, which includes seven siblings. Together, they have preserved this property in honor of their parents, Dr. Carmen and Mrs. Rita Rocco.
The location of Blue Rock Farm is often referred to as Kulps Corner, an unincorporated community name given to the hamlet for its long lineage of Kulp family members. The Kulp brothers worked the farm there, which Carmen and Rita Rocco purchased in 1974. 
While Carmen and Rita raised their seven children at their home in Gwynedd Valley, Montgomery County, they gave the Kulp brothers life rights to the Bedminster Township farm because they were happy to have farmers actively work their land. 
Carmen and Rita, with their young kids in tow, would often visit the brothers. The children would bring firewood and split logs for the Kulps as they heated and cooked from a wood burning stove. 
Rita, a gourmet chef, always brought a delicious meal that she had prepared for the brothers.
This tradition of food is engrained in the Rocco family. Carmen Rocco’s mother was one of the last surviving members of the institution known as Giordano Garden Groceries in South Philadelphia. 
The combination of Carmen’s Italian heritage and Rita’s French heritage blended to make for delicious family dinners together every Sunday night for the Rocco family.
Dentist by profession and originally a city boy, Carmen Rocco quickly grew to appreciate country life and was happiest on his tractor. The intention was always to eventually move from their home in Gwynedd Valley to Blue Rock Farm in Bedminster Township.
“He would have loved it if we could have built a family compound there and all lived together with our extended families, but that was not realistic.” Chip Rocco, son of Carmen and Rita, joked. 
Carmen Rocco has since passed away, and Rita now 91—their dream didn’t come to fruition the way they had hoped, but their legacy will live on.
Isn’t it fitting that, after all this time, the Rocco children would honor their parents’ tradition of bringing people together with quality food by preserving a property that serves as a food source for the community?
“This is a wonderful thing that we can do this. I know my Dad is loving it,” shared Chip.
Blue Rock Farm’s quality soils and vast road frontage contributed to its high conservation values and made protecting it a priority. Since it was highly developable land, Heritage Conservancy was dedicated to seeing this preservation become a success. 
“Heritage Conservancy is thrilled to participate in the permanent protection of Blue Rock Farm, which was once under consideration for development but will endure as part of Bucks County’s agricultural landscape,” said Kris Kern, Director of Resource Protection for Heritage Conservancy. “It will serve as a gateway to the hundreds of acres of already preserved farms along Route 113.”
The Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation Program contributed the majority of funding to this agricultural conservation easement; Bedminster Township and Heritage Conservancy’s Calvin Ruth Memorial Fund also contributed toward the easement purchase price.  
“The preservation of Blue Rock Farm is a first for Bucks County. Four entities, including the state, county, township, and a nonprofit, partnered together to conserve this farm,” said John Ives, Director of Agricultural Land Preservation & Municipal Open Space Programs for the Bucks County Planning Commission. “The joint easement not only protects and retains farming operations, significant productive soils, and a large wooded area, it preserves the scenic vistas along Routes 313 and 113. Bucks County is proud to continue and partner with stakeholders to preserve the County’s agricultural heritage.”
“Bedminster Township received land development plans on this property in the past and had always wanted to preserve this parcel. Heritage Conservancy was the catalyst to make this happen,” said Rich Schilling, Township Manager and Zoning Officer for Bedminster Township. “The Conservancy’s diligent work and the support of all the partners on this project made it happen!
The easement, in the standard form of the state agricultural conservation easement, will be co-held by Bucks County, Bedminster Township, and Heritage Conservancy.
“What is next for the farm? Now that it’s permanently protected, it needs someone to do the right thing with the land. We would love to see a farmer purchase it and actively steward it. Its prime location could allow for a successful farm stand,” said Chip Rocco.
For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and how you can preserve your land, visit the Heritage Conservancy website.
The Conservancy has facilitated the preservation of over 15,000 acres of land, and it has produced over 40 successful nominations for historic districts and individual properties in this area to the National Register of Historic Places. 
(Photo: Dr. Carmen and Mrs. Rita Rocco.)
[Posted: August 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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