Dauphin County Commissioners preserve additional 15 acres of almost 87-acre Mifflin Township farm already shielded from development

HARRISBURG, PA (March 13, 2019)The Dauphin County Commissioners today added 14.71 acresto a Mifflin Township farm’s 72.61 acres already protected from future development through the county’s Farmland Preservation Program.

“I like to see farmland preserved and not developed,’’ said Bob Kessler, who owns the 574 Kessler Road farm with his wife, Judy. “Farms keep getting subdivided and the available acreage keeps getting smaller, and I want to make sure my farm continues to exist.’’

Preserving farms, as well as open space for active and passive recreation, have long been priorities of the board, said Chairman Jeff Haste. Since 1992, when Dauphin County began purchasing easements, the county has preserved a total of 16,863 acres on more than 170 farms. Almost 3,000 acres have been protected in Mifflin alone.

“Farmland has always been such a vital part of this nation and our economy,’’ Haste said. “It is a valuable and vanishing resource that we must protect.”

Under the program, the Kesslers sold the development rights to 14.71 acres in a $12,650.60 easement. The county paid for the easement and the state Bureau of Farmland Preservation covered roughly $3,500 in associated legal, appraisal and survey costs. In 1995, the county used state funding to buy the easement rights to the original 72.61-acre home farm for $91,578.91.

“This program is a great tool for the county,” said Commissioner Mike Pries.  “We use state and local money to pay farmers for easements on their land, to preserve it as a farm forever.”

Hartwick said the program is also a way of encouraging redevelopment.

“We have taken steps not only to protect our green fields but also to ensure agriculture continues to lead in the way in our economy,” Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said.  “By purchasing easements, we can encourage redevelopment and ‘smart growth’ in urbanized areas.”

Kessler said he took over operating the farm from his parents, Ray and Lena, who bought the property in 1941. The farm had a dairy operation until 2017 and today grows corn and soybeans.

“Farming is just in your blood,’’ Kessler said. “This county program is good for farmers and the land. It ensures that there will at least be some farms around in the future.’’

Since the program started, the county has allocated $50,000 a year, which many times is combined with state farmland preservation funding for larger purchases. The county program also receives the interest on taxes owed on land removed from the state’s Clean and Green program, in which property taxes are based on the agricultural use and not the higher fair market value that would include development potential.

Owners who take land out of Clean and Green must repay the last seven years of tax savings plus interest. Last year, the county’s preservation program received $72,000 in interest payments from land that was removed from Clean and Green.

For more information on the conservation of farmland and natural resources, please visit the county’s Conservation District website at www.dauphincd.org or call 717-921-8100.