Homestead Village is a place where engaged and forward-thinking individuals live, connect, and serve the greater community. Residents are involved with a wide variety of volunteer efforts, charitable organizations, and outreach opportunities that are making a difference in big ways. This blog features one of these residents and the work that they are doing to make Lancaster County a better place!
Homestead Village resident Don Hess has served on the board of the Lancaster Farmland Trust for over eight years in Lancaster County, PA. For the past two years, he has served as the Lancaster Farmland Trust Board Chair. The board consists of 15 members who manage this non-profit organization with a mission “To preserve and steward the beautiful, productive farmland of Lancaster County that reflects our heritage, supports our economy, protects our environment, nourishes our health, and enhances our quality of life.”
The Trust was established in the mid-1980s, and by the end of 2022, will have preserved over 551 farms, equating to over 34,000 acres of land. While a majority of the preserved farms are owned by the Amish, there are a variety of individuals who have committed to this worthy cause.
The Lancaster Farmland Trust sometimes works in partnership with the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board, but The Farmland Trust is funded by donations, while the Ag Preserve is funded by taxpayer dollars. If a parcel of land is mainly woodland or streams, it is referred to as the Lancaster Conservancy.
Because it is a private foundation, the Lancaster Farmland Trust is preferred by Amish farmers because it is supported by private funds rather than government funding.
A farmer will approach the foundation board with an application to preserve their farm. Representatives from the foundation will evaluate the farm to make sure it matches the criteria and assess a reimbursement amount based on factors such as soil quality and farm-related use.
Once approved, the farmer will receive a reimbursement of up to $2,000 per acre, as the foundation acquires the development rights to the land. The farm is then monitored annually to make sure it is still meeting the qualifications.
For example, additional structures can not be built, or trees cut down. If the farmer sells the farm, the deed restrictions are passed to the next owner.
The Farmland Trust will only accept land outside of Lancaster County if the development rights are donated so that contributors can be sure that their funds are being used only in Lancaster.
Don is proud of the board’s most recent accomplishment—the success of a capital campaign that raised over $8 million, including a major $2 million donation from the Steinman Foundation.
At this time, there are many preservation applications waiting to be approved. Funds from this campaign will alleviate some of the backlogs and help move 62 applications through the approval process this year. Part of the funding will also be put into the endowment for future farmland preservation needs.
There are a number of Homestead Village residents who are already involved in the work of the Farmland Trust and preserving Lancaster’s precious resources. One way to see the farms in person is to attend a “Breakfast on the Farm” event. If you attend, you’ll likely see a handful of Homestead Village residents there! You can also follow the action on Facebook, LinkedIn, or on the Trust’s website.
Lancaster County farms boast some of the richest, most productive, non-irrigated agricultural soils in the world, and The Farmland Trust is proud to work towards saving them for generations to come.
If you’d like to learn about other volunteer opportunities available to Homestead Village residents or would love to discover other life enrichment opportunities for those on campus, contact us today.