Del. Farmland Preservation Foundation Reaches Milestone - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Farmland Preservation Foundation Reaches Milestone

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Farmland that is a part of the Delaware Farmland Preservation Foundation. It is owned by Bob Garey of Felton. (Photo: WBOC) Farmland that is a part of the Delaware Farmland Preservation Foundation. It is owned by Bob Garey of Felton. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- More than 120,000 acres of Delaware farmland have been permanently preserved through a state program.

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation has been protecting the state's agriculture by ensuring that the farms within the foundation stay farms forever.

The program works by purchasing the farmers' development rights and placing a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property so it always stays farmland.

Bob Garey, a lifetime farmer in Felton, says he hopes farmers consider joining the program.

"It's very important to agriculture to have the land base that we can rely on for agriculture in the state. Agriculture is the number one industry in this state," he said.

The program started its first round of easement purchases in 1996 and has since preserved farmland in New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties, according to a press release from the Delaware Department of Agriculture. It notes there are currently 825 permanently preserved farms in the state.

Gov. Jack Markell says protecting farmland is vital to helping farmers thrive and the economy grow.

"It also adds to our state's open space and natural areas, which enhance our quality of life," he said. "Our state's farm leaders should be applauded for reaching this milestone and for their work over the last 20 years ensuring that Delaware is a leader in keeping farmland active and thriving."

There is another side to this argument for a preservation fund, though. Brandon Bonk owns Bonk Farms in Dover, and he says the land he owns is in a place that is inevitable for development.

"We believe that farmland is very much like a commodity, it's meant to be bought and sold," he said. "And so if it can bring a higher value in the future, I don't necessarily believe in preserving all of it." 

The program does not require a farmer to preserve all of their land

Today, 35 percent of Kent County farmland and 15 percent of Sussex County farmland has been preserved. And with 20 percent of New Castle County farmland preserved, that brings the total to 24 percent of the entire state of Delaware, according to the Department of Agriculture.

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