The Bureau of Agricultural Land Preservation works with the nine member Sterling Raber Agricultural Land Preservation Board of Lehigh County to preserve farmland within Lehigh County. The name of the board was changed at the end of 2009 to honor Sterling Raber, former county commissioner and chairman of the farmland preservation board, for his long-time dedication and commitment to protecting agriculture and rural life in Lehigh County.
Total Acreage The preservation of farmland is accomplished through the purchase of agricultural conservation easements (also known as the purchase of development rights) on eligible Lehigh County farm properties. As of September 24, 2013, the County Board has protected 252 Lehigh County farms covering a total of 20,969 acres with perpetual agricultural conservation easements. Click on the map below for an overview of the entire county and on the photos at left for a close-up view. The most recent addition to the program is the Harold and Linda Tyson farm, a 208 acre property in Lynn Township.
Funding Status The 2014 county budget included $250,000 for the purchase of development rights this year. This amount has been certified by the county executive and the acting head of the fiscal department, and it will be used to garner matching funds from the state. The state funding distribution for each county will be announced at the state board meeting February 13 in Harrisburg.
The County Land Preservation Board reviewed the per acre cap at its meeting January 15, and it will remain at $5,000. That is the maximum amount per acre that the Board will pay. The Board will continue to limit the increase in easement value from second opinion appraisals to no more than 50% above the original offer.
Status of Farms Selected for Appraisal in 2013 Offers have been made to all but one of the farms selected in the 2013 application round (we are waiting for the last appraisal to be completed). Some of the farms will require new boundary surveys, which will be completed in February, March and April. The deadline for 2014 applications is March 31.
Community Garden Plots 2013 was a successful gardening year! All questions and concerns about plot assignments, plot inspections, and general administration of the sites at both Cedarbrook and Jordan Creek Parkway are being handled by Dora Gensemer. She can be reached at 610-391-9583, ext. 17, or at the Farmland Preservation office located at the Lehigh County Agricultural Center, Suite 107, 4184 Dorney Park Road, South Whitehall Township.
Lehigh County Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Manual