Cumberland County Farmland Preserved

I am happy to share the following announcement from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation:

Daniel DeTullio bought his farm along the Cohansey River in Cumberland County in 1987 because of its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife.

He and his wife, Raquel, just preserved the nearly 30-acre property to protect it from future development. “It’s so peaceful and quiet and serene back there, it would be a shame to develop it,” said Dan.

On Sept. 13, New Jersey Conservation purchased the development rights on the DeTullio farm, ensuring that it stays farmland forever.

The farm is surrounded on two sides by the state’s Cohansey River Wildlife Management Area, and is bordered by a tributary known as Rocaps Run. The Cohansey winds through a mosaic of tidal marshes, woodlands and farms before emptying into the Delaware Bay. The area provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including bald eagles.

DeTullio Farm
Credit: New Jersey Conservation Foundation

“The eagles back there are like mosquitos,” Dan joked. There are also plenty of wild turkeys, ducks, geese, owls, deer and other creatures. “You see a lot of things there that you don’t see anywhere else,” said Dan.

The DeTullios still own the farm, but the land is now permanently restricted to agriculture. Preserving the property will maintain the area’s rural and scenic character, protect wildlife, safeguard soil quality, and protect the land’s ability to recharge groundwater.

Funding was provided by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Cumberland County also contributed to the project by paying for property appraisals.

“We are thrilled to help ensure that this beautiful riverside farm stays farmland forever,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We’re very grateful to the DeTullios for deciding to preserve their farm, and to our partners for providing funding to make this project possible.”

The DeTullio farm is located just south of Bridgeton, and a short distance from the Dutch Neck section of Hopewell Township, where New Jersey Conservation Foundation helped preserve several historic farms.

Most of the farm’s soils are “prime” and “statewide-Important” soils, the two highest quality classifications for food production. Much of the newly-preserved land is in open field agriculture, with smaller forested areas on its northern and southern sides.

This farmland preservation project advances New Jersey Conservation’s collaborative partnership with Cumberland County to save working family farms with outstanding agricultural attributes. It also builds upon New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s work to preserve farms and wildlife habitat in the lower Cohansey River region of Cumberland County.

Julie Hawkins, State Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, praised the partnership that made the DeTullio preservation project successful.

“The New Jersey Conservation Foundation was the first nonprofit in New Jersey to successfully seek NRCS financial assistance for agricultural land preservation more than 15 years ago,” said Hawkins. “Partnership is key to preserving farmland in New Jersey and this effort couldn’t have been done without the help of State Agriculture Development Committee as well. SADC is our state’s leader in farmland preservation and was ranked #1 in the nation by the American Farmland Trust for its implementation of policies to protect farmland and support its viability. We’re grateful that NRCS funding can be a catalyst in New Jersey Conservation Foundation and SADC’s efforts to help family-run farms remain farmland for future generations.”

My 2020 Jersey Christmas List

This has been a hard year for all of us; especially for the small business owners of New Jersey. Like many, I am urging everyone to shop small as much as possible this year.

My Christmas list this year has a special Jersey flair this year. These are gifts that are made by Jersey artisans available in Jersey stores.

Cape May Suncatchers

Cape May Suncatchers
Credit: Cape May Suncatchers

These works of art by Tommy of Cape May Suncatchers are just amazing. He digs up antique bottles found around the beaches of Cape May and then carves them into beautiful ornaments, suncatchers, and window-hangers. This would certainly be a unique and lovely gift, especially for those who love Cape May.

Just Jersey Goods

You can find just about ANYTHING with a unique Jersey attitude from the Jersey Jersey Goods store in Morristown. From cutting boards and mugs for the foodie to books for the state historian, you can find almost anything with a Jersey theme at this awesome shop. Personally, I am partial to the Parkway token keychain. For decades, it was a required item in every car as you went down the shore. And it is worth mentioning I was a champion at pitching it up and over the car from the passenger side as well as the trick shot through the sunroof.

Sue Sachs Jewelry

Credit: Sue Sachs

Located in Livingston, Sue has been making jewelry and crafting metal objects for more then 30 years. Her jewelry and metal objects are crafted in sterling silver, brass, copper, and/or gold. I feel they are masterfully created and bring a sense of whimsy to each piece. I especially love her garden pieces, as I have become an avid gardener the last two years and you can often find me at the Roxbury Community Garden during the season. Her “shovel series” is definitely at the top of my list!

Reddie to Burn

Credit: Reddit to Burn

OK, I am completely partial on this one. Our intelligent and incredibly talented Goddaughter and niece has started her own candle making business. Reddie to Burn Candle Co. offers a wide variety of soy hand-made candles and wax melts and uses clean fragrances for just the right amount of scent. Which one is the best? Well that’s up to you. Personally, I really like the idea of a having access to the smell of a library any time I want it. One of my favorite places in college was leaning up against a book shelf in the stacks.

Gift Certificates

If you have that person who is just too hard to buy for, consider purchasing a gift certificate from a locally-owned business. From nail salons, to restaurants, to sport shops, every business is having a hard time right now and I am sure your gift certificate purchase would be appreciated.

Local Non-Profits

Just as small businesses are struggling, local non-profit organizations are having an even harder time right now. Many people are out of work and every dollar in a family budget has been stretched to its limit. Many organizations are really in need of support so they can continue to help their local communities. Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a thoughtful and unique gift. Here are some that have a special place in my heart:

  • Peters Valley School of Craft: Peters Valley enriches lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts. This community, brings together established and emerging artists from around the globe. Peters Valley was officially incorporated as a non-profit in 1970 and is located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • The New Jersey Historical Society: The NJ History Society collects, preserves, teaches and interprets New Jersey history through its archives, research library, and educational programs. Not only is it a great place to visit, the Society offers materials for teachers to help share the story of New Jersey with their students.
  • Discover Jersey Arts: A collaboration between ArtPride New Jersey and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts is a multifaceted program dedicated to increasing the awareness of and participation in the arts in New Jersey. It is coordinated through the regional Jersey Arts Marketers (JAM) network and provides resources for both arts organizations and patrons alike.
  • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: Even though it is not New Jersey-exclusive, the NY/NJ Trail Conference plays an important role in our great state. This is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains, and protects public trails. Together with organization partners, the Train Conference strives to ensure that the trails and natural areas we all enjoy are sustainable and accessible for generations to come.
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation: The mission of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected over 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bay, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks.

No matter how you decide to celebrate the holiday, I urge you to “shop small” and look to support the businesses and non-profits right in your own community. After all, these are the businesses and organizations that sponsor your son’s little league team or purchase an ad in the high school play’s program. They will (God willing) be there for the long-haul providing services, products, and jobs to you and your neighbors.

Farmland Preserved in Bedminster

This announcement was made on the New Jersey Conservation Website. The residents of New Jersey should be thankful to the ongoing work by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Lamington Conservancy. They are ensuring our open spaces are available for generations to come.

Two beautiful farmland properties along the Black River, totaling nearly 125 acres, have been permanently preserved by New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners.

“Preserving these two properties protects agriculture, water quality and Bedminster’s rural character and scenic beauty,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We’re very grateful to our many preservation partners for making this possible.”

Scully-Peretsman Farm

Robert Scully and Nancy Peretsman donated a conservation easement on 75 acres along Black River Road to Bedminster Township in December, ensuring that it will remain farmland forever. The couple wanted to make sure that the farm’s agricultural heritage and rich and productive soils were protected.

“On behalf of Bedminster Township, I extend our gratitude to Bob and Nancy for their commitment to farmland preservation and to ensuring that the rural character of the Pottersville neighborhood will be maintained for future generations,” said Mayor Larry Jacobs. “I also want to thank the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for guiding us through the process and reaching an arrangement that we are all proud of.”

The farm is located just south of Pottersville village, and includes historic red barns housing 53 Katahdin ewes. The scenic Axle Brook runs along the southern property edge, just before merging with the Black River, also known as the Lamington River.

Preserving this farm adds to a large swath of preserved land in the community. To the north and south are other large preserved farms, and to the west is a mile of preserved riverfront open space owned by Bedminster Township. To the east is the 170-acre Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, headquarters of the nonprofit Raritan Headwaters Association.

The conservation easement significantly restricts new building on the farm, but allows a small “exception area” for one house and outbuildings in the future.

Chubb Property

The second newly-preserved property, 49 acres on Rattlesnake Bridge Road, was purchased for $1.67 million from the Chubb Insurance Company. The property has river frontage on one side and Interstate 78 on another side. It is currently farmed for corn and hay.

The nonprofit Lamington Conservancy initially secured funding to purchase the development rights on the property, but the owner wanted to sell it outright. New Jersey Conservation Foundation stepped in and bought the farmland, while the Lamington Conservancy simultaneously purchased the development rights and transferred them to Somerset County. Funding was provided by the State Agriculture Development Committee, Somerset County and the New Jersey Highlands Council.

“It’s a good chunk of land,” said Bob Holtaway, president of the Lamington Conservancy and a former Bedminster mayor. “This transaction sews up the northwest corner of the Interstate 78 interchange and keeps it agricultural, so all is well.”

Holtaway noted that land on the other three corners of the Rattlesnake Bridge Road-Interstate 78 interchange were preserved earlier, so the area will never be developed.

The land was purchased for commercial development about 30 years ago by Chubb’s real estate arm, the Bellemead Development Corp.

The Chubb property is surrounded by preserved farmland and open space. It is across the street from the Buffalo Country LLC farm, also known as Red Tail Farm; and across the river from the Emmet and Whitman farms in Tewksbury Township. On the other side of I-78 is the preserved Lana Lobell horse farm and hundreds of acres of parkland owned by Somerset County.

The property is about 80 percent farmed, and more than half of its soils are “prime” or “statewide,” the two highest classifications of soil quality. The southwest portion of property is wooded and abuts the river.

“The preservation of the Chubb property is a wonderful example of the collaborative efforts we develop with other organizations in preserving property,” said New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. “The State Agriculture Development Committee and other groups are proud to have worked on this important project.”

“Farmland is a defining feature in the character of the Highlands region,” said Lisa J. Plevin, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Council. “We were pleased to work in partnership with other organizations on this preservation project that will protect abundant agricultural resources.”

“Somerset County is constantly striving to preserve important pieces of our agricultural community to ensure that this rich heritage is around for generations to come,” said Freeholder Melonie Marano, planning liaison. “We were happy to collaborate with the state, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and other partner agencies to secure this property for the benefit of our community.”

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since its inception in 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks. For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit http://www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About the Lamington Conservancy

The Lamington Conservancy is a non-profit land conservation organization created in 1999 to assist landowners in protecting and preserving their open, agricultural land in the Lamington River Valley. The Conservancy is committed to safeguarding the rural character and open countryside of this unique area. We promote farmland preservation and the protection of the area’s natural and historic resources. In conjunction with local land trusts and local and state governments, the Conservancy helps landowners select the land conservation program which best suits their needs and assists them throughout the process.

New Jersey land business predates America

The following is a blog post from Michele S. Byers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Once a year, America’s oldest continuously operating corporation meets in a tiny building in Burlington City, N.J. Instead of business suits, shareholders dress in Quaker costumes.

There’s not much business to conduct, because the Council of West Jersey Proprietors is from another era. Established in 1688 as a land grant corporation, the council no longer has vast lands to sell, but still owns some property and settles minor boundary issues.

With New Jersey celebrating 350 years, it’s worth remembering the critical role once held by this historic corporation and its defunct twin, the East Jersey Board of Proprietors.

The two land grant corporations stem from a royal gift from a British monarch. In 1664, King Charles II granted his brother James, the Duke of York, extensive territory in the New World, including the lands that would become New Jersey.

The Duke gifted the land to two loyal friends, Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, marking the official beginning of New Jersey. The state was carved in half diagonally, beginning at a point along the Atlantic Ocean in Little Egg Harbor and extending in a northwesterly direction to the Delaware River. Berkeley got the west side and Carteret got the east.

Berkeley quickly sold his interests to a group of Quakers, including William Penn, and Carteret’s family also sold his share after his death. Berkeley and Carteret’s legal successors were investors whose main business was to sell acreage to settlers and collect annual rents; they formed the East and West Jersey boards of proprietors.

“If someone in the colony wanted to buy land, they would have to go to one of the proprietors,” explained Maxine Lurie, a retired professor of history at Seton Hall University and the author of an upcoming book on New Jersey history.

The East Jersey Board of Proprietors was established in 1682 in Perth Amboy. But it dissolved in 1998, largely because shareholders feared potential legal liability for environmental problems on land the corporation held.  Its real estate, including the rights to any remaining lands, was sold to the state for $300,000.

But the Council of West Jersey Proprietors survives and has been running for 336 years … although with a largely ceremonial role in the past century.

“Technically, if there’s a piece of land in West Jersey that nobody has ever purchased in 300-plus years, it would belong to the corporation,” said Lurie. “But it’s a default. If you do a title search and there’s no clear title that you can trace, the presumption is that the proprietors still own it.”

Given New Jersey’s status as the nation’s most densely populated state, discovering lands without title is rare and exciting. More common are thin overlaps or gaps between titled properties, and it falls to the West Jersey Proprietors to resolve these “gores.”

Perhaps the greatest modern-day contribution of the East and West Jersey Proprietors is their historical records. When the East Jersey Proprietors dissolved, their extensive collection of colonial era maps and land records went to the State Archives in Trenton.

In 2005, the West Jersey Proprietors deposited its records with the State Archives, consolidating all of New Jersey’s colonial land records under the same roof for the first time – a huge benefit for historians, genealogists and those interested in land.

While you’re celebrating our state’s 350th anniversary, raise a glass to the Proprietors, who launched these centuries of land subdivision in this state we’re in!

To learn more about our state’s history and how it’s being celebrated this year, go to http://officialnj350.com/.  For a full Council of West Jersey Proprietors history, go to http://westjersey.org/wjh_copowj.htm.

And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.