More than 134,000 acres of Delaware farmland are now permanently preserved. In the 23rd consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation, the development rights of 111 farms totaling 9,382 acres were purchased; more than 5,500 of those acres were preserved in Sussex County.
In this round of easement selections, there were six farms in New Castle County, 39 in Kent County, and 66 in Sussex County. Of that total, eight farms with 726 acres were preserved using $1 million set aside by Sussex County Council.
Sussex County's $1 million contribution was matched by $1 million in foundation funding, said County Administrator Todd Lawson.
“Sussex County is demonstrating once again its support for Delaware’s agriculture industry and its commitment to protecting open space and an enhanced quality of life,” Lawson said. “As someone whose family has been rooted in agriculture for generations, I’m incredibly proud to be part of a collective effort that helps keep our economy strong and ensures a piece of the county’s agrarian history remains visible and viable for many years to come.”
“Since the start of my administration, I have placed a high priority on preserving Delaware’s farmland so that agriculture will continue to be our state’s No. 1 industry,” said Gov. John Carney during a June 24 press conference. “I am proud to announce the largest round of Delaware farms permanently preserved farms in the history of the program.”
“With today’s announcement we preserved our 100th farm in New Castle County and our 400th farm in Sussex and will have almost 500 farms in Kent County,” announced Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse.
Landowners have donated, on average, 58 percent of their development rights value – they received 42 cents on the dollar of their farm’s development rights’ value to preserve their farm. The average discount or donation by the landowner for Round 23 is 66 percent.
The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property.
Landowners must voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district before they can sell an easement. In addition to over 134,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 174,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.
During this round, all three Delaware county governments provided funds in the same round to help purchase easements for the first time in 11 years.
Delaware's statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996, and has since preserved 21 percent of New Castle County farmland, 38 percent of Kent County farmland and 18 percent of Sussex County farmland.
Sussex funded easements
Aglands easements purchased with Sussex County funding: Carpenter Farms Inc., 106 acres, near Milton; Edward and Susan Steen, 235 acres, near Laurel; James and Donna Vanderwende, 36 acres, between Bridgeville and Delaware-Maryland line; Bender Farms LLC, three parcels 261 acres, near Greenwood; Midge Haven Farm LLC, 38 acres, near Bridgeville; and Edward and Sandra Dickerson, 51 acres, between Seaford and Laurel.