The Chester County Commissioners are pleased to announce an important agricultural land preservation milestone in the County. Since October of 1990, when the first farm successfully went into the program, Chester County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board (ALPB) has approved the preservation of 40,000 farm acres on more than 500 farms. This farmland preservation represents a significant contribution to Chester County’s overall open space preservation program which now accounts for 28 percent of the County.With even more farmland preservation as its aim, the ALPB is now accepting applications for two competitive programs funded by the Chester County Commissioners: The Commonwealth/County Program and the Chester County Challenge Grant Program. Both programs offer funds to qualifying Chester County farm owners who are interested in preserving their farms. The County pays farm owners for their development rights in exchange for a permanent agricultural conservation easement on their land.Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline said: “Many of the farms that have sought preservation in Chester County are ‘century farms’ which have been in the same family for at least 100 years. In this instance, the preservation funds can help transition the farm to the next generation, in addition to preserving the open fields and rolling hills.”Farms with 10 acres or more are eligible for both the Commonwealth/County Program and the Chester County Challenge Grant Program if they are adjacent to other permanently preserved land. For farms not adjacent to permanently preserved land, the acreage minimums are 50 acres for the Commonwealth/County Program and 25 acres for the Challenge Grant Program.Even if land is enrolled in an Agricultural Security Area (ASA) or Act 319 (Clean and Green), farmers are still eligible to receive additional funds to preserve their farms. Farmers still own the land and can sell it or pass it on to the next generation as long as it remains in agriculture. “The variety of preserved farms in Chester County reflects the diversity of our agriculture,” said Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “From fruits, vegetables, soybeans and mushrooms to tree farms, dairy, beef, pigs, turkey and ducks, equine operations – even alpacas.” Preservation of a farm removes the development potential from the land, making the price more affordable for new generations to purchase the farm and participate in Chester County’s agriculture industry.“Farmlands are a vital industry in Chester County, creating more than $600 million in revenue a year, and the county’s agriculture industry contributes over $3 billion to our local economy through sales, employment, taxes and services,” added Commissioner Terence Farrell.“We thank the members of the Agriculture Land Preservation Board, past and present, for their valuable contribution to farmland preservation, making it one of the top programs in Pennsylvania.”The application deadline for both the Commonwealth/County Program and the Chester County Challenge Grant Program is August 1, 2018. For more information, including applications and program guidelines go to chesco.org/openspace or call Geoff Shellington at 610-344-6504.