MONROE — The township now has 11 farms preserved forever with the finalized purchase of a 17-acre equine farm on Gravel Hill-Spotswood Road.
The farm is the 55th farm in Middlesex County preserved through the Middlesex County Farmland Preservation Program.
The county, with its funds and contributions from the state and the Township of Monroe, purchased an agriculture preservation easement on the farm, known as J.B. Heatherwood Farms, owned by Melissa Beck-Callanan of Monroe, according to information provided by township officials. The purchase was completed March 19.
The total cost of the development rights for the farm is $405,163.20. The state contributed $243,097.92. The county paid $81,032.64 and Monroe matched the county’s funds.
“I thank Monroe Township and the many families who have partnered with us over the years to save our precious lands and farming tradition,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said in the statement.
This acquisition brings the county’s total amount of preserved farmland through the Farmland Preservation Program to 4,943 acres. More than 632 of the preserved acres are located in Monroe, according to the statement.
Overall, with the addition of the farm, more than 5,488 acres of farmland have been preserved throughout the county. That number includes preservation easements purchased through the county Farmland Preservation Program funds, as well as purchases made directly by the state, the municipalities, non-profit organizations and land donated to the county, according to the statement.
“Middlesex County is committed to preserving its environment for future generations,” Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Charles E. Tomaro, who serves as liaison to the Open Space and Farmland Public Advisory Committee, said in the statement. “Our preservation efforts will go a long way toward keeping this county and its residents healthy.”
With the likes of the horse farm, Monroe officials are moving closer to their goal of preserving more than 50 percent of the township, which covers about 43 square miles.
On March 5, Township Council members approved cross-share funding for the $1 million purchase of a 37-acre tract at the corner of Federal and Gravel Hill roads and the council has moved on an ordinance to create a task force that will focus on the future of the New Jersey Training School to ensure the 663-acre site is preserved as open space and farmland. State officials have announced plans to close the facility.
Middlesex County’s Farmland Preservation Program purchases the non-agriculture development rights on farmland that meets criteria established by the Middlesex County Agriculture Development Board and the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee, according to the statement. The value is determined by two independent appraisals. The farmland is preserved by placing an agriculture preservation easement on the property.
The state, county and town share the cost of the farms’ development rights, with the state paying the majority of the purchase price. Middlesex County’s program is strictly voluntary.
Farmland owners interested in participating in the program must submit a formal application to the county Agriculture Development Board. Farm owners interested in the program can contact Laurie Sobel, senior environmental planner of the Middlesex County Office of Planning at 732-745-4014.