MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Morris County is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Morris County Farmland Preservation Program by launching an interactive, online story map of all 142 farms preserved over the years, offering background information, photos and geographic data on each site.
“We hope Morris County residents can use this story map to see the many permanently preserved farms, which ensure that agriculture will continue to flourish and contribute to the high quality of life in the Morris County,” said Joe Barilla, Director of the Morris County Office of Planning and Preservation.
The story map was created by the Office of Planning and Preservation to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the farmland grant program, which was launched in 1983 when the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, now the Board of County Commissioners, created the Morris County Agriculture Development Board (CADB). The board was formed to oversee the preservation program, which uses grant funding to purchase development rights from willing farm owners, thereby preserving the land while allowing farmers to continue owning and operating their farms.
The Cupo Farm, a 14-acre farm in Washington Township, was the first to be preserved on Dec. 28, 1987, and the program was initially supported through capital dollars provided in the county’s annual budget. However, following a referendum overwhelmingly approved by local voters, the Morris County Open Space & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund was approved on Dec. 22, 1992, creating a dedicated funding source for farmland preservation. The program additionally uses grants received through the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, which is also celebrating 40 years.
“This has been an exceptionally successful and well-received program, with nearly $81 million being committed by Morris County, in addition to another $84 million funded by the state of New Jersey, to assist in the preservation of 142 farms since the inception of the program,” said Commissioner Stephen Shaw, the board liaison to the county Office of Planning and Preservation.
From the humble beginnings of preserving the 14-acre Cupo Farm, the Morris County Farmland Preservation Program has amassed permanent conservation of over 8,200 farm acres across Morris County.
“This monumental milestone marking the 40th anniversary was not achieved by one individual alone. Initial gratitude can be granted to the founding freeholders for creating this program while sincere appreciation can be given to past, present, and future Morris County employees for managing the day-to-day program operations. Without the dedication of all the serving board members, the success and continued growth of the program would not have reached its current eminence,” stated CADB Chair Dale Davis.
The farmland preservation program offers farm owners the opportunity to preserve, own, and maintain their farms with autonomy. Beyond preserving land, the program has preserved farming lifestyles, a heritage of agriculture in Morris County, conservation efforts and the future prospects for a variety of agricultural operations to continue.
The story map provides visitors a glimpse into the success of the program as well as the diverse beauty of Morris County agriculture and all it stands for: honoring sectors such as vegetable, fruit, livestock, equine, dairy, hay, grain, and greenhouse operations and conservation.
“It is not just about preserving land; it is also preserving a way of life. With this program, the farmland remains in private ownership. Many of these farms would not be able to survive as farms if not for this program,” stated Commissioner Shaw.
Information about the farmland preservation process can be found here. Anyone interested in preserving their farm, contact Katherine Coyle in the Office of Planning & Preservation at firstname.lastname@example.org.