If you want to preserve your farm, contact us at (610) 927-4753
Reading Eagle Company
BY LISA SCHEID
BOB AND Kristin Stoltzfus' two-year odyssey began when they discovered their North Heidelberg Town-ship farm was big enough to subdivide but too small to preserve.
Truth is, selling pieces of the 12-acre farm Kristin grew up on was never an option. "I never wanted it to be developed," she said. "I just want it to stay the way it is. It's beautiful. It's peaceful." The problem was finding a way to preserve it, then getting the bank to support the decision.
Lifelong residents of Conrad Weiser School District, the couple watched as developments swallowed farmland over the years. They were living in Wernersville when they decided to buy Kristin's parents' home on Kricks Mill Road. The home had fallen into disrepair and needed work before they could move in. Filled with nostalgia
and a sense of duty, they began inquiring about preserving the land around the house and barn. Since the 1960s, it was leased by the same farmers.
The Stoltzfuses discovered that the land was too small for county or state preservation programs, which is where Adopt an Acre stepped in. Adopt an Acre is a Berks County nonprofit organization that raises money to buy development rights of small farms not eligible for state and county preservation progress.
The Wernersville-based organization supports the community's broader efforts to save open space. The county remains at the forefront of farmland preservation in Pennsylvania, having saved 715 farms consisting of 70,577 acres, not including Adopt an Acre properties.
"Adopt An Acre's preserved land may tie clusters of preserved farmland together or act as a bridge to connect a gap between them," said Tami Hildebrand, executive director of the Berks County Agriculture Department. "In that manner, the state and county agriculture conservation easement program and Adopt An Acre complement one another. Our organizations also support and promote one another."
Another reason landowners turn to Adopt an Acre, said Hildebrand, is to preserve their property without participating in a program administered by a governmental agency.
Before the Stoltzfuses reached settlement, they had to get their bank to recognize the easement. That meant the bank had to agree to subordinate the mortgage to the easement. ''No one seemed to understand," said Bob, who works in banking. Kristin is a Tulpehocken High School learning support teacher.
There were calls, letters and a refinancing, and still they couldn't finalize the deal. But Adopt an Acre board member Ted Noble persisted. "Every time I was ready to give up, Ted was there," Bob said.
Finally, Adopt an Acre connected the couple with someone in the agriculture lending department of Fulton Bank who understood what they wanted to do, why they wanted to do it and how to do it.
On Oct. 3 they became the fourth farm Adopt an Acre has helped.
Since its inception as an auxiliary to the county's agriculture preservation program in 2004, Adopt an Acre has helped preserve about 50 acres, Noble said. The development rights can sell for between $850 and $1,250 an acre. Based on an appraisal. Adopt an Acre makes an offer, which is usually accepted.
"They don't do it for the money," Noble said. "They do it for the stewardship."
Contact Lisa Scheid: 610-371-5049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.