Wednesday, January 31st, 2018
VERBEKE FARM IS MORRIS COUNTY’S 134TH PRESERVED FARM
The Morris County Agriculture Development Board this week permanently enrolled the 20-acre Verbeke Farm, a hay farm in Chester Township, into the county’s farmland preservation program.
It is the 24th farm in Chester Township property to enroll in the county preservation program, and the 134th preserved farm in Morris County. The County Agriculture Development Board purchased a development easement on the property for a total of $312,560, or $16,000 per acre, from the owner, Simmone Verbeke.
The State Agriculture Development Committee provided 60 percent of the funding, or $187,488, while the other 40 percent or $125,072 came from the voter-approved Morris County Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.
The agreement restricts the land from non-agricultural uses, but the Verbeke family retains ownership.
Verbeke Farm, on the corner of Tanners Brook Road, is located just a half-mile from another preserved farm property in Chester Township. The township has the second-most preserved farms in Morris County, second to Washington Township, according to Morris County Agriculture Development Board Director Katherine Coyle.
The hay farm has an irrigation pond dating to the mid-1960s, as well as stables and an outdoor riding arena. The farm abuts the Black River Wildlife Management Area.
“This long-term preservation program over several decades has been extremely effective in preserving Morris County’s agricultural roots, and creating a permanent and viable agricultural business district, especially in western Morris County,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, the county governing board’s liaison on preservation matters.
In contrast to open space preservation, the agricultural landowner retains ownership of, and may even choose to sell, the preserved farmland. However, the land retains a deed restriction ensuring that it cannot undergo non-farm development.
Agricultural development of the farm is permitted and the type of farming activity can change in the future.
Preservation of Verbeke Farm brings the total area of preserved farmland in the county to 7,983 acres or the equivalent of 12.4 square miles, which is approximately the area of Long Hill, which is the 15th largest municipality in Morris County.
Verbeke Farm is the first preservation closing in Morris County in 2018. Another six farms, totaling 230 acres, are pending enrollment in the county program. They are located in Chester Township, Harding, Mount Olive, and Washington Township.
For detailed information on the county’s agricultural preservation program, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/planning/divisions/prestrust/farmland/