Hempfield beef spread joins farmland preservation program
Westmoreland County’s Heinnickel family has added a new section of its multi-farm holdings to the state’s agricultural conservation easement purchase program.
The family’s 39-acre Luxor Farm in Hempfield was among 47 farms, covering 3,561 acres in 21 counties, added this month to the farmland preservation program.
The program taps federal, state and county dollars to purchase voluntary easements from owners, to protect high-quality farmland for continued agricultural use rather than development.
The Luxor acreage is the only area farm included in this month’s round of easements approved by the state Agricultural Land Preservation Board.
That Hempfield farm, which the Heinnickels acquired about a decade ago, is used in part as pasture for some of the family’s beef cattle and for growing corn and soybean crops, said owner Alquin Heinnickel, 72.
“We’d like to see it stay a farm that won’t be developed when I’m gone,” he said.
In the late 1800s, the property supported horses that worked at the region’s coal mines, which were experiencing a boom.
Normally, the preservation board approves farms that include at least 50 acres, but smaller spreads are considered when they are adjacent to other prime farmland.
“Everything around it is already in the farm preservation program,” Heinnickel said. Counting neighboring farms, he said, “We’ve got probably about a 1,000-acre block. It should work well.”
Heinnickel and his two brothers own several hundred acres of farmland that support about 900 cattle plus crops in Hempfield, Salem, Unity and Loyalhanna townships. In previous easement approvals, the family has added a farm of nearly 78 acres and another of more than 192 acres to the conservation rolls.
Industry awards the family has collected include Conservation Farmer of the Year and Outstanding Farmer Cooperator.
Unfavorable weather conditions combined with ongoing foreign trade concerns continued to challenge the family operations this year.
The corn crop has taken a hit from frequent rains that hindered planting and growth. “Usually we’re done planting corn by May 10, but this season we didn’t get done until June 10,” Heinnickel said.
Stalled U.S. trade agreements have resulted in price drops for farm commodities that normally are sold to large overseas markets.
“Soybeans were selling for $12 per bushel and now they’re down to $7.50,” Heinnickel said. “Until we get a trade deal with China, we’re in trouble.”
Since Pennsylvania’s farm preservation program began in 1988, easements have been purchased on 5,540 farms totaling 569,767 acres in 59 counties.
Visit wcalp.org for more about farmland preservation efforts in Westmoreland County.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .