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South Buffalo farm joins land preservation program

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By Mitch Fryer
Thursday, April 29, 2010

For 200 years, the Morrison Farm off Sarver Road near Slate Lick in South Buffalo has been a farm.

Scott Morrison, the seventh generation of the family to operate the farm in Armstrong County, wants to make sure it stays that way.

Morrison grows hay and raises 30 head of beef cattle on the 132.5-acre farm.

"When you go back to the Route 28 expressway's planning and building, the talk has always been that this area would be developed similar to Buffalo Township and Cranberry," Morrison said.

"We thought not every available square foot of land should be filled with houses or under concrete," he said.

His mother, Martha Morrison, 86, who is the farm's owner, agrees with her son. She and her late husband Robert, Scott's father, made their living in the poultry business selling eggs door-to-door.

Martha was the first woman in the Morrison family to have her name on the farm's deed. Scott's son Robert works on the farm and is interested in continuing the family tradition.

The Morrison Farm is the third and latest in the county to remain available for future agriculture production. The farm was officially recognized and accepted into Armstrong County's Farmland Preservation program on Tuesday.

Purchased in 1810, the 200-year-old family farm also is recognized as a Pennsylvania Bicentennial Farm through the state's Department of Agriculture.

At a dedication it joined the Bruce Farm in Burrell Township and the Patterson Farm in Kiski as an inductee into the Armstrong County Agricultural Land Preservation Program which permanently protects it from development.

In the nationally-recognized program's 21-year history, nearly half a million acres on about 4,000 farms have been safeguarded for the future.

In Armstrong County, a total of 260 acres of farmland is preserved with the three farms.

The state's farmland preservation program works through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, developed in 1988, to help slow the loss of prime farmland to nonagricultural uses. The program enables counties to purchase conservation easements from owners of quality farmland.

The county's program is administered by the Armstrong County Land Preservation Board to keep farms in the county.

The program protects viable farm land by obtaining agricultural conservation easements from individual farmers, which prohibit the development or improvement of the land for any use other than for agricultural production.

It provides compensation to the landowners in exchange for them to voluntarily give up their right to develop their private property.

The easement is worth a maximum one-time payment of up to $2,000 per acre paid to the owner, depending on the land's value.

The county program is funded partially by the commissioners and receives much of its funding from the state Department of Agriculture's Farmland Preservation Program.

The county preservation board makes the offer to the land owner and the state board has the final determination on awarding the easement.

The Morrisons said they hope that future generations of their family will look back and fully appreciate the actions taken to preserve and protect the land.

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