Farmland Preservation

 Preserved Farmland in Centre County

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Why Preserve and Protect Farmland in Centre County?

Centre County has a rich agricultural history as the home of The Pennsylvania State University. Established in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania and renamed the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania in 1862, Penn State has trained generations of farmers to sustain central Pennsylvania as an agricultural region.

Agriculture is our heritage and our future.

Of the 59,000 farms in Pennsylvania, 1,023 are located in Centre County.

The 2003 County Comprehensive Plan recorded that approximately two acres of farmland were lost to other uses per day—the equivalent of an average size Centre County farm—every three months. However, from 2006 to 2010, agricultural land increased from 108,344 to 108,693 acres as the result of forest conversion and a decrease in development.

With 1,023 farms on 149,858 acres, Centre County ranks 24th in agricultural assets among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Since 1991, Centre County has permanently safeguarded 53 of our farms from any activity that is not compatible with agriculture, be it residential, commercial or industrial development.

We preserve farmland because our farms and agricultural operations provide significant benefits to our community and beyond. Our mission:

  • Conserve Centre County’s superior quality soils, an outstanding agricultural resource.
  • Keep soils in portions of Centre County highly productive for agricultural purposes. 
    Precipitation is also relatively consistent from year to year, allowing farming to occur without irrigation.
  • Help preserve the identity of individual towns and villages by buffering each community from its neighboring settlements.
  • Provide habitats and corridors for fish and wildlife.
  • Enhance our air quality.
  • Allow for groundwater recharge, ensuring stable supplies of drinking water and water for environmental uses and recreation.
  • Drive our economy. We’re a county where agricultural product sales account for $92 million; half of those sales are milk from cows. The average Centre County farm sold $89,422 in products in 2017. Tax revenues collected from farmland far exceed the cost of providing return services to that land. 

    Preserving farming has had a significant impact on our economy. Since 1991, Centre County’s agricultural land preservation program has:
    • Minimized the conversion of land from farming to other uses, such as development  (held at 15 percent since the 1995 land use survey).
    • Added $108 million in additional agricultural product sales.
    • Retained 200 direct and indirect agricultural jobs.

      Note: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has invested $15.5 million in farmland preservation in Centre County. The County and local municipalities have invested $2.75 million. 
  • Contribute to the scenic beauty of our area—enhancing Centre County’s renown as a beautiful place to visit and go for drives.
  • Feed us—specifically increasing opportunities to buy fresh, quality produce, meat and dairy products from local farms through seasonal and year-round farmers markets.
  • Promote agritourism by offering opportunities for residents and visitors to visit and learn about local farming.

As farmland is permanently lost, so are many of our traditions, lifestyles and values. Preserving our precious farmland safeguards it for future generations of farmers. With programs in place that encourage the consumption of locally grown foods, farmland preservation, and environmentally sustainable farm practices, agriculture will continue to have a significant influence on Centre County’s economy.

For more information about farmland preservation, please contact Diana Griffith, Centre County Ag Land Preservation Coordinator, at dlgriffith@centrecountypa.gov or (814) 355-6791.


Preservation is Forever

There are farms in Centre County where families have been working that land for more than 200 years. Most want to continue farming and don’t want to see their land lost to development. Farmers who preserve their farmland are safeguarding it from development forever. They’re protecting it for their descendants as well as future owners. They’re preserving the best agricultural soils. They’re remembering what their ancestors did for them, honoring their legacy, and building their own legacy as stewards of their land.  


“Your ancestors were farmers and growers, too. When we steward our land, we’re honoring their legacy.” ~ Michael Twitty, culinary historian


Respect our Farms as Privately Owned Businesses

The scenic beauty of a farm attracts not only residential developers but individuals who long to build a home in a rural setting. Homeowners should be aware that living next to a farm is not the same as establishing a residence by a state forest, state game lands, state or local park. Routine farming practices carried out by the owner of the adjoining farmland have characteristics common to many industrial enterprises. Production involves activities that generate waste products, noise, and odors; may involve the use of pesticides, herbicides, and machinery, and entails operations beyond "regular business hours." Raw materials are shipped in, processed, and shipped out as value-added products.

Farmland is private property, not public space available for four-wheeling, snowmobiling or other recreational activities, unless the landowner has specifically granted permission to use the land. In addition, dumping brush, grass and other debris on farmland disrespects the land and its owner by interfering with planting and harvesting. When the farm has been preserved and therefore holds an agricultural conservation easement, such activities are violations of their deed of easement and must cease.

The farm is a business established to generate a profit, and requires a significant capital investment to start, operate and sustain.

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