NJ CONSERVATION FOUNDATION – David Schaeffer was born and raised in Salem County and loves the area’s agricultural character and way of life.
“It’s a tough life, but I love it,” said Schaeffer, who farms 81 acres off Featherbed Lane. “I wouldn’t change it for a billion dollars. It’s in my blood.”
As a farmer, Schaeffer doesn’t like to see prime farmland developed. “A lot of farms I used to work on and play on are now houses,” he said. “People are moving out of the city and turning it into city.”
Schaeffer’s love of Salem County’s rural landscape – and his desire to pass his farm down to his son – prompted him to permanently preserve the land.
On Dec. 12, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners purchased the development rights on Schaeffer’s farm fields for $641,500. Schaeffer still owns the land, but it is now permanently restricted to agricultural uses.
Selling the development rights, Schaeffer explained, not only allows him to pay off the debt on his farm but will also enable him to purchase additional farmland. He and his son, also named David, grow soybeans, field corn, sweet corn, sweet peas, wheat, and rye.
The Schaeffer farm is part of the “Sharptown grasslands” complex, an area with outstanding soil quality and over a thousand preserved acres. Nearby preserved lands include the Cowtown Rodeo’s cattle and horse grazing lands, the state’s Featherbed Lane Wildlife Management Area, and the Kelly, Stoms, and Atanasio farms, all preserved by New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners.
Funding for preserving the Schaeffer farm came from a grant to New Jersey Conservation Foundation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a grant from the State Agriculture Development Committee to Salem County. The Salem County Agriculture Development Board will hold the easement on the land.
“All soils on the Schaeffer property are either prime soils or soils of statewide importance, so we are especially pleased to assist with the preservation of this farm,” said State Conservationist Carrie Lindig of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). “In so doing, we are helping to ensure that these important soils will be available for future agriculture.”
New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said the State Agriculture Development Committee was pleased to support the project. “The crucial role the SADC plays in helping preserve farmland remains a key factor in New Jersey maintaining its agricultural heritage,” he said. “This program allowing the Schaeffers to continue their family tradition is an excellent example of cooperative agreements.”
Salem County Agriculture Development Chairman Andy Buzby said the Schaeffer farm, located in the northwest corner of Pilesgrove Township, links adjacent preserved farm parcels that total hundreds of acres.
“This farm is part of the proactive county preservation program that has resulted in the preservation of thousands of acres of farmland over the past 20 years,” Buzby said. “The County Agriculture Development Committee appreciates our funding partners and continues to work with landowners interested in the preservation program.”
Preserving the Schaeffer farm also maintains the rural and scenic character of the area. An impervious cover limit ensures that the property will remain open and pervious for water recharge.