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Over 3,800 acres of farmland added to permanent preservation list

delaware-farm.jpg
Delaware Public Media
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The latest round of easement selections by Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation saw a record number of acres come from the Inland Bays watershed.

Over 3800 acres across 54 farms are added to the permanently protected list, and 486 of those acres are in the Inland Bay, the most ever selected in one year.

Aglands Administrator Jimmy Kroon says Delaware’s agriculture industry is worth close to $9 billion, and preserving that industry is vital.

Kroon says this year, the foundation had $10 million to purchase easements, meaning farmers still privately own their land, but locks it into agriculture production, no matter who owns it.

And farmers are compensated for protecting their land.

“Sometimes farmers are getting older and they are looking for the payment because they want to retire, and for many farmers, their land is the most valuable asset they own," Kroon said. "So this is a way for them to get a payment and maybe take retirement without having to sell the land to a developer, and then the land can still be either passed on to their children or they can sell it to somebody else and know that it will stay in farming.”

Kroon says they hope to accept more applications from farms in the bay and in New Castle County, where the soil is well drained and has higher elevation.

“We don’t like to see ourselves as anti-development because we recognize that people need houses and shopping centers and everything too," Kroon said. "But we really want to make sure that agriculture remains a viable industry  and that some of those really productive areas that are preserved remain in agriculture.”

Kroon adds there is a strong interest among urban residents to preserve rural farmlands to provide ready access to fresh locally grown foods.

Since 1995, Delaware has preserved 6,873 acres of farmland in the Inland Bays watershed and almost 147,000 acres statewide.

There is twice as much funding for the next round, which means twice as many acres preserved. The deadline to apply is October 31 at de.gov/aglands.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.