Without permanent protection, however, the riparian buffers can be carved off and mowed over as farm ownership changes. And, many farm easements have actually required that the buffers be converted back into fields to maximize production.
Seeing a need for top-down change, OSI has facilitated negotiations with New Jersey’s State Agricultural Development Commission, helping draft contract language for permanent protection of riparian buffers while seeking pilot projects to carry out the new guidelines. Similar discussions are beginning in Pennsylvania.
“With limited state preservation funding available, it’s increasingly important that we seek out new funding partners and creative approaches to preservation wherever possible,” said Susan E. Payne, Executive Director of the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee.
“Our partnership with the Open Space Institute is instrumental to developing pilot projects—to demonstrate how we can work together in finding ways to effectively balance the economic needs of the working farm with the need to protect water quality.”
But for OSI
On the ground, OSI is an active grantmaker and strategist, helping to protect farm buffers along marshes and streams that empty into the Delaware River. Often, this support helps tip the scales and bring projects to close.
In the case of Yoder Farm, OSI’s partner Natural Lands Trust had worked to make the farm affordable for Beam by devising a novel, two-easement strategy: one on the 114-acre farm—which Beam would manage—and a second on the 18.5-acre buffer, with Natural Lands Trust as manager. Both the county and township had contributed funds, but they came up short until OSI granted $250,000.
“Without that grant, we wouldn’t have generated enough money for the preservation and protected the buffer adequately,” said Jack Stefferud, Natural Lands Trust’s Senior Director for Land Protection.
Across the Delaware in New Jersey’s Bayshore, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been at work conserving farms in the Dutch Neck region, a rich mosaic of farms, tidal marshes and woodlands along the north shore of Cumberland County’s winding Cohansey River, a Delaware River tributary.
In 2015, three farms bordering streams that the Foundation had been targeting for protection were successfully conserved after OSI matched funding from the local county.
“OSI’s funding absolutely made the difference in whether these farms were conserved,” said Matt Pisarski, head of Cumberland County’s Agricultural Preservation Program.