DOVER, Del. Forty-four new farms totaling more than 4,300 acres have been selected for permanent easements to add to the Delaware Farmland Preservation Program, the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation has announced.
The Foundation's Board of Trustees recently voted to permanently preserve the properties in Round 18 of the program, which began in 1991, for an investment of $8.44 million. The purchase of those easements means that more than 115,000 acres of farmland are permanently protected in Delaware.
"For more than two decades, Delaware has been a leader in preserving farmland, protecting open space and keeping agriculture profitable," said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. "The investments we make today will pay off for our children and grandchildren, and help keep our rich agricultural heritage thriving."
The voluntary preservation program leverages state, local and federal contributions. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners' development rights and has a permanent agricultural conservation easement placed on the property. All purchases by the Foundation are done at discount, 56 percent of the appraised value on average over the life of the program; the average discount for Round 18 was 61 percent. The average farm size in the latest round was 99 acres, at an average cost of $1,936 per acre.
The properties in the latest round include 26 in Sussex County, 17 in Kent County and one in New Castle County. Kent County Levy Court contributed $95,526, allocated to six properties.
There are also more than 51,500 acres of farmland in preservation districts, voluntary agreements in which landowners agree to only use their land for agriculture for 10 years. Farmers must enroll in a preservation district before they can sell an easement.