WINDSOR) - Local farmers Kevin and Sharon Kyle
today purchased a 77-acre tract on Perrineville Road
in East Windsor, Mercer County, from the State Farmland
Preservation Program, fulfilling a 15-year dream
of owning a farm for themselves.
Every year the State Agriculture Development Committee
(SADC), the independent agency that administers the
Farmland Preservation Program, acquires several farms
outright to save the land from development. The SADC
then restricts these properties for agricultural use
and resells them at auction. Because the price of restricted
land is much lower than the real-estate market value,
such auctions provide the best chance for farmers like
the Kyles to buy land for production.
"There is no other program like this that can make land available to farmers
at a price they can afford," said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus,
who chairs the SADC. "It is a key feature in our effort to preserve New
Jersey's farmland by making sure we also preserve this industry, helping working
farmers to stay on the land."
For 15 years, the Kyles have been tilling 50 acres on various tracts along
Cedarland Road, most of which they have to lease from other landowners. These
landowners are free to sell or develop their property at any time.
"We could have continued if we had known we
were going to have it, but it is mostly leased ground," Kevin
Kyle said. There was no guarantee year to year that
the land would be available. Now, with 77 more acres
of their own, these worries vanish.
"It was a major reason for wanting to own something," said
Sharon Kyle, "and the only way we could afford
to own it is through this preserved land. We could
never afford to buy land like this outright."
The cost of real estate is extremely high in this
fast-developing area of central New Jersey, three miles
away from two New Jersey Turnpike exits and 10 miles
from the sprawling Route 1 corridor. But the land the
Kyles bought was restricted for agricultural use only
and so the Kyles paid much less for it by purchasing
it at an auction from the SADC.
The new Kyle farm is part of the former Cedarland property covering hundreds
of acres that the SADC purchased from the landowner at full market price to
save the farmland and to protect East Windsor and Mercer County from even more
congestion and sprawl.
The SADC in turn restricted the land for agriculture
and resold it. Four farmers registered for the auction
in March and the Kyles won with a high bid of $365,000,
about $4,700 an acre. The State had paid double that
amount to protect these acres from development.
"The difference between what the State paid
and what we received at the auction is the price we
paid to preserve this valuable land," said SADC
Executive Director Gregory Romano. "We can now
use this money from the Kyles to buy more farms and
to resell them to more farmers. It is one of the strongest
features of our program."
The Kyle purchase represents a recycling of farmland
preservation dollars. Last year, the SADC, working
with Mercer County, had preserved a tiny farm owned
by Kevin Kyle's mother, and these funds provided a
base for them to purchase the larger property they
closed on today. In turn, their $365,000 payment will
replenish the SADC's fund to purchase more farms.
Now in its 20th year, the SADC has preserved 842
farms totaling more than 100,000 acres by acquiring
the development rights from the landowners. But since
1990, the SADC has also purchased 44 farms outright
at a cost of $57 million. These farms, totaling more
than 7,600 acres in 11 counties, were then restricted
for agricultural use and resold at auction to working
farmers like the Kyles. These resales have returned
$22 million to state coffers to replenish farmland
Governor James E. McGreevey on June 2 signed four
bills appropriating $73.2 million for farmland preservation.
About $59 million was earmarked to preserve 164 specific
farms by acquiring the development rights. But $14
million was also set aside in a special fund to purchase
farms directly as they come onto the market before
developers can grab them.
As important as saving farmland is the fact the Kyle
family can now remain in business, and that their local
customers will continue to receive a steady supply
of fresh local fruits and vegetables.
The Kyles for 12 years have owned and operated K&S
Farms roadside market and nursery on Route 539 in Cream
Ridge. The fruits and vegetables they raise in East
Windsor will go to their store or be sold at the Englishtown
Farmers Market and at other farm markets in northern
New Jersey. "You control your price more this
way. When you sell wholesale, it is a little tough
to make a living," Sharon said.
Under agreement with the SADC, the Kyles have already
been farming the 77-acre Perrineville Road tract, planting
such a startling variety of produce, from beans to corn
to strawberries, from cabbage to cut flowers, it seems
easier to list the things they do not grow. "Kevin's
finally got plenty of room now to work," said Sharon.