Updates from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut Highlands

Farmland

The agricultural industry, farmers, and farmland are all vital assets to the Highlands region. The Highlands harbors the most productive unirrigated soils in the country, perhaps the world. Farmland supports biodiversity and feeds millions in the region, while being an economic engine for all four Highlands states. As much of the nation is clamoring for local, sustainably harvested food, an integrated working landscape will be even more critical to the quality of life in Highlands communities. Protecting farmland through economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture is a key way to ensure long-term viability of the agricultural industry, and thereby promote long-term protection of prime soils and open spaces. In order to do this, conservation organizations in the Highlands are working to support farmers, help transition where possible to sustainable and organic production in order to boost revenues, and connect land owners with farmland protection programs to augment farm incomes. There are even potential roles for farms in offsetting carbon use and ameliorating climate change impacts through sustainable practices. The US Forest Service’s agriculture lands protection priority model had four component factors: prime agricultural soils, cultivated lands, Agricultural Security Areas, and preserved farms.