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2 farms enter Westmoreland County agricultural preservation program

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 10:57 a.m.
Employees Anne Kemerer (left) and Phyllis Musser tend to a calf at Overlea Farms in Salem and Penn townships on Nov. 16, 2012. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Anne Kemerer (right) and Phyllis Musser tend to calves at Overlea Farms in Salem and Penn townships on Nov. 16, 2012. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
A view of Overlea Farms near Delmont, which has been owned by John McIlvaine's family for more than a century, on Nov. 16, 2012. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Nancy and Edward Krokosky own Great Pine Farm in Washington Township. Portrait taken on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Nancy and Edward Krokosky, who own Great Pine Farm in Washington Township, walk on their property on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Tucked behind the retail stores, restaurants and housing developments near the junction of Routes 22 and 66 is a 132-acre dairy and crop farm.

The land split, between Salem and Penn townships, has been in John McIlvaine's family for more than 100 years. He plans to keep it that way.

“Who wants Westmoreland County with all houses and asphalt roads?” asked McIlvaine, a fifth-generation farmer, who owns the land with wife Mary Ann McIlvaine. “We have enough of them.”

County commissioners last week approved the purchase of agricultural conservation easements for two farms: the McIlvaines' and 160 acres in Washington Township owned by Edward and Nancy Krokosky.

The final steps in the process should be completed by the end of the year, officially preserving both parcels, said Betty Reefer, director of the Westmoreland County Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

“We like to protect farms in an area where there's other farms” for mutual support, Reefer said. “It's not always farms that are out in rural areas.”

The McIlvaines' farm, known as Overlea — a Scots-Irish word for “overlooking the meadow” — lies along Boquet Road. John McIlvaine was a charter member of the preservation board when it started 25 years ago, he said.

The Krokoskys purchased their Washington Township farm in the 1970s. They now raise sheep at Great Pine Farm, near Beaver Run Reservoir.

“We think it's important that farmland is preserved,” Nancy Krokosky said. “We don't want the whole world to turn into a shopping center or a development. We just feel fortunate to be living in the country.”

The county preservation program has protected more than 11,000 acres on 86 farms in 15 townships.

Farmland owners must apply for preservation. Farms are then screened and evaluated on soil quality, development and farming potential, and proximity to other farms.

Reefer said a farm near a residential community may be more difficult to preserve perpetually than one in a more rural setting.

Applications were received from 22 farmland owners for consideration in 2012.

State funding aids the purchase of conservation easements, Reefer said.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.Staff writer Stacey Federoff contributed to this story.

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