Agricultural and Farmland Preservation News 

IMG_0834View our Slideshow of Farm Animals on Centre County Preserved Farms


New center to promote agricultural conservation in Pennsylvania

As part of an ongoing effort to promote soil and water conservation on farms, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has launched the Center for Agricultural Conservation Assistance Training in partnership with the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The new center, to be coordinated by Penn State Extension, is aimed at helping Pennsylvania farmers, agricultural landowners and conservation professionals implement best practices, meet appropriate technical qualifications for those practices, leverage funding and partnerships, and ensure the health of land and water in communities.

“Penn State has a long history of partnering with state agencies, USDA and the agricultural community to research and disseminate best practices that will help producers to protect our water and soils,” said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “This new center will provide a focal point for the kinds of technical assistance farmers need so they can adopt science-based conservation measures that can enhance water quality and soil health, which is a high priority for the college.”

“The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program provides historic funding for Pennsylvania farmers to install conservation practices on farms,” said Doug Wolfgang, executive secretary of the commission, who until recently served as Director of the PA Bureau of Farmland Preservation. “Farmers are some of the best stewards of the land and want to improve water quality and soil health, while making farms more productive and sustainable for future generations. The center will be instrumental in building the technical assistance capacity that is needed to carry out this important work.”

The center is funded by the State Conservation Commission through its new Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program, which was created through the Clean Streams Fund established in the fiscal 2022-23 state budget.


Spring 2023 Agricultural Land Preservation News Update
PDF is hyperlinked for easy access to additional resources.

This eight-page issue profiles the owners of Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery in Ferguson Township, Elwin Stewart and Barb Christ, who have found installing solar panels at their own expense to be an excellent investment. Their freestanding ground and rooftop solar panels support their agricultural operation and their residential needs. 

Two Proven Paths to Farmland Preservation in Centre County. 
We highlight the differences between the Purchased Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) program offered by the Commonwealth and Centre County, and the Land Trust model of preservation administered by the Centre County Farmland Trust, a separate organization. 
The Benefits of Donating Development Rights to Woodland. Many of our landowners are now agreeing to donate the development rights to their woodland, keeping all of the farm in one easement. When we exclude the woodland from their evaluations, we can significantly improve their scores with the blessing of the State. Moving their applications forward with that score hinges on their willingness to donate the woodland development rights and be paid only for their prime farmland development rights. As such, separate Purchased Easement Areas and Donated Easement Areas are created within their respective easements. 

Managing Healthy Forests. Hand in hand with preserving woodland is stewarding it. 

Healthy Soils. We continue our campaign to promote healthy soils on our preserved farms, supported by an American Farmland Trust soil health stewardship grant.


Shapiro Administration Invests $5 Million To Protect 22 Farms, 2,038 Acres In 13 Counties From Future Development

The Shapiro Administration announced April 14 that Pennsylvania protected 2,038 acres on 22 farms in 13 counties from future residential or commercial development. Three Centre County farms were among those protected, including the Cynthia A. Barker farm in Potter Township, the Larry F., Suzanne M., and Dawn L. Harpster farm in Ferguson Township, and the Strickler Living Trust farm in Walker Township, Donald W. Strickler, trustee.

The investment of nearly $5 million in state, county, and local dollars preserves prime farmland for the future, helping Pennsylvania farms continue feeding our families and our economy. The investment illustrates Governor Josh Shapiro's continued commitment to Pennsylvania's rural economy and conserving our farmland, soil and water resources to feed future prosperity.

Governor Shapiro demonstrated his commitment to conservation in his 2023-24 budget proposal, continuing to support the conservation tax credits, loans, grants, incentives and initiatives in the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, and proposing a new $2.5 million investment to help guarantee the integrity of state and local investments in preserving prime farmland.

"Fertile, healthy farmland and clean water are critical to our economy and our future," Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. "The families who preserve their farms are forging a partnership with government, investing together in ensuring that future Pennsylvania families will have food, green spaces, income, and jobs. Government working to sustain our economy and feed our quality of life is a central goal of the Shapiro Administration."  and jobs. Government working to sustain our economy and feed our quality of life is a central goal of the Shapiro Administration."  


SBA Working Capital Loans Available in Western Pennsylvania Following Secretary of Agriculture Disaster Declaration for Drought

The Secretary of Agriculture has declared last summer's drought in Pennsylvania a disaster. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that disaster loan assistance – working capital loans – are available to help small businesses and small agricultural cooperatives meet ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of last summer’s drought. Farmers in Centre and 18 other Pennsylvania counties that were adversely affected by the drought from June 1 through August 30, 2022 are eligible to apply by the filing deadline of October 2, 2023.
These economic injury disaster loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.

Learn more:

PENNSYLVANIA Declaration #17772 Fact Sheet
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) News Release, February 7, 2023


Centre County PACE Program 2022 Annual Report (PDF)
This publication documents the achievements and initiatives we undertook in 2022 – most notably in growing the number of farm preservation projects we have in progress and expanding our educational endeavors. The PACE program is now managing 59 easements across 16 Centre County townships, and we will have 65 farms preserved by the end of 2023. 

Note: This PDF takes approximately 30 seconds to load.

Centre County Preserved Farms
Since 1991, the Centre County Agricultural Land Preservation Board has approved 60 agricultural conservation easements and preserved 8,864 acres of farmland.  


Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future

America's farmland and ranchland is rapidly disappearing, threatening our food security, undermining the agricultural economy, and making us vulnerable to climate shocks. The nation has a choice: allow unchecked sprawl to erode this critical resource, or safeguard it with policies that protect farmland and smarter land-use planning that leads to efficient growth. 

This new report from American Farmland Trust maps three alternative futures out to the year 2040.


PA Bureau of Farmland Preservation 2021 Annual Report

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Farmland Preservation administers programs that protect prime farmland for future generations. Pennsylvania is a national leader in farmland preservation with 6,044 farms and 611,620 acres protected through permanent agricultural conservation easements (April 2022). Public funds used toward easement purchase are a critical investment in the future of Pennsylvania’s thriving $132.5 billion agricultural industry. In addition to the economic benefit, the program ensures food supply for a growing population. Pennsylvania has some of the most fertile, non-irrigated soils found anywhere in the world. The pandemic and increased threat of climate change both put food security at a heightened level of awareness and further support the need to continue preserving farms. The latest USDA ag census figures indicate that the Commonwealth lost roughly 6,000 of its farms from 2012-2017. cp99042.pdf ( Development pressures will threaten prime farmland soils in the decade ahead. Farmland preservation mitigates these irreversible losses.


2023 Visual Tour of Preserved Farms in Centre County

An Agricultural History and Visual Tour of Penns Valley and Brush Valley farms 
This agricultural history and visual tour of farms in the Penns Valley and Brush Valley area — featuring some of Centre County's preserved farms — was funded by Verizon Wireless to fulfill Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stipulations to mitigate adverse effects from a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wireless telecommunications facility in Centre County.

Presentation Archive

Publication Archive

The Future of Farmland Preservation

What does the future of farming in Pennsylvania look like?
Pennsylvania is investing in helping farmers who will be transitioning to new owners and operators, 
as well as qualified new and beginning farmers. 

10 numbers that show how much farmland we’re losing to development
"What’s new ... is the discovery that the development isn’t coming only from urban areas expanding outwards – rural areas are also losing farmland rapidly."

PA Bureau of Farmland Preservation
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production. The program guarantees a future food supply and contributes to a healthier economy. 

Beginning Farmers
This webpage dedicated to the Beginner Farmer Realty Transfer Tax Exemption (Act 13 of 2019) includes basic information about the program, frequently asked questions, and associated forms.

If you have questions about resources for farmers, contact Diana Griffith, Centre County Ag Land Preservation Coordinator, at or (814) 355-6791.

WATCH: Farmland Preservation: Preserving Our Roots, Securing Our Future