100 more acres preserved at landmark Tewksbury farm

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Another 100 acres of the landmark Hill & Dale Farm are now permanently preserved, thanks to a partnership between Hunterdon County, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the State Agriculture Development Committee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

On May 24, the partnership purchased the development rights on 100 acres of agricultural fields on the south side of Hill & Dale Road. Corn, soybeans and hay are grown on the land, which remains in private ownership and is now permanently limited to agricultural uses.

The 100-acre property was the latest in a multi-phase land project that has preserved nearly 300 acres of Hill & Dale Farm in the past five years.

Hill & Dale Farm has operated for almost a century, first as a dairy farm and more recently as a horse farm that grows its own hay, corn and grain. Its historic Dutch-style barns are an iconic sight along rural Rockaway Road.

“We’re thrilled that these 100 acres will remain farmland forever, and very grateful to all of the partners for making this possible,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Hill & Dale’s fields drain to a tributary of the Rockaway Creek, the headwaters of the North Branch of the Raritan River.  Permanently preserving these lands protects water quality in the Raritan River, an important drinking water source.

The agricultural easement will be held by Hunterdon County, which contributed 14 percent of the purchase price. The State Agriculture Development Committee contributed 60 percent of the purchase price, and New Jersey Conservation Foundation added 26 percent toward the purchase price, using funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This land, with its productive rolling hills and long history in agriculture, is a worthy addition to New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program,” said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher.

State Conservationist Carrie Lindig said, “USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service supported the preservation of this 100-acre parcel and an adjacent 50-acre parcel in 2014 through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to protect farmland in New Jersey.”

“The Hunterdon County Freeholders continually demonstrate their commitment to the viability of Hunterdon County agriculture through cost share partnering with the State of New Jersey, our municipalities, and our non-profit partners on preservation projects like the Hill and Dale farm,” said Hunterdon County Freeholder Director Suzanne Lagay. “Especially gratifying is our non-profit partner’s ability to leverage federal funds to the benefit of all the citizens of Hunterdon County.”

Long-Term Project

New Jersey Conservation Foundation began working in 2004 with the farm’s owners, the Rothpletz family.

In 2011, NJ Conservation acquired the first 115 acres and established the Hill & Dale Preserve, which begins in the Rockaway Creek valley and climbs the steep Hell Mountain hillside. After two additional purchases, the Preserve now stands at 192 acres and serves as both recreational and agricultural assets to the community. Trails are open to the public, while farming continues on the fields.

Seller Michael Rothpletz said he is very pleased to see the 100-acre parcel permanently preserved. “The closing was the result of many years of planning and work, and it would not have been accomplished without the dedication and expertise of New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff,” he said.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all.  Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).