Farmland Preservation Program

Farmstand, surrounded by flowers, at Wightman Farms

We Need Your Help!

We’re working on a new Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan, and we need your help!

Fill out our survey by July 9 to let us know how you use (or don’t use) Morris County’s farmland – whether you shop at farmer’s markets, buy plants at local nurseries, or care about agritourism. Your input will be key to making our new Plan!

Fill out the survey by July 9

Information for Applicants

Easement Purchase Program

Under the County Easement Purchase Program an interested landowner voluntarily agrees to sell to the County Agriculture Development Board the development rights to his or her property, and a permanent deed restriction is then placed on the land. A landowner’s agreement to accept permanent agricultural deed restrictions in return for compensation is known as “sale of development easements.” Landowners retain ownership of (and may even choose to sell) preserved land, with the new deed restriction ensuring that the land will not undergo non farm development. The county and state share easement purchase costs, which represent the difference between a property’s farm (or deed restricted) value and its full market value. Land value is determined by appraisal. Most farms have entered the Farmland Preservation Program through the sale of development rights.

If you are interested in preserving your farm by selling the development easement, below you will find information about the application process, program summary, deed restrictions, historical easement values, application form, as well as other useful information.

Eight Year Program

Under the Eight-Year Program, landowners voluntarily restrict development on their land for a period of eight years. There are two types of eight-year programs: municipally approved programs, which require a formal agreement among the landowner, county and municipality, and non-municipally approved programs, which require an agreement between only the landowner and county. Landowners apply to their county agriculture development board. Although they receive no direct compensation, landowners enrolled in both programs are eligible to receive grants for up to 50% of the cost of conservation projects such as irrigation systems, erosion control measures, underground or permanent open drainage systems, windbreak restoration, contour farming, terrace systems and more. Additionally, those in municipally approved programs enjoy greater protections from emergency fuel and water rationing, and eminent domain actions.

If you are interested in applying to the Eight-Year Program, below you will find information about the program, including applications, sample agreements, list of projects eligible for Soil & Water Conservation Project Cost Sharing, as well as, other useful information.

Background Information

History of the Program

The Morris County Farmland Preservation program began with the permanent preservation of the Cupo Farm, a 14-acre farm in Washington Township, on December 28, 1987.

Since 1987, over 8,000 acres of farmland have been permanently preserved. The “Cumulative Preserved Acres”(PDF, 35KB)  chart shows the progress of the Morris County Farmland Preservation effort since 1987. The “Annual Preserved Acres”(PDF, 207KB)  chart shows the number of acres that were preserved each year since 1987.

Towns with permanently preserved farms include: Boonton Township, Chester Borough, Chester Township, Denville Township, Harding Township, Lincoln Park Borough, Long Hill Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Montville Township, Mt. Olive Township, Randolph Township, Rockaway Township, and Washington Township (see table below). Washington Township leads in the number of preserved acres in the county. This is not surprising since Washington Township ranks 1st in farmland acreage in the county with 10,815 acres (see table below). Chester Township is second in the county in the number of preserved acres and ranks 2nd in farmland acreage with 3,880 acres.

The “Morris County Municipal Land Area and Farmland Acreage”(PDF, 16KB) chart shows the percentage of preserved farmland for each municipality. The “Morris County Preserved Farmland Acreage vs. Town Size”(PDF, 16KB)  chart shows the total preserved farmland acreage vs. town size.

Another 2 farms are currently enrolled in the Eight-Year Program. They are located in Mendham Borough and Washington Township.

Funding of the Program

The Morris County Preservation Trust Fund was established in 1992. The regulations governing the Trust Fund allocate 25% of the fund exclusively for farmland preservation purposes. The following table summarizes the county funding for the Farmland Preservation Program. The levy for 2012 has been set at 1.25 cents per $100 of equalized county valuation.

Funding Source, Morris County Preservation Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation Allocation (25%)

Year 25% Allocation
1994 $ 738,711
1995 $ 1,040,338
1996 $ 1,656,385
1997 $ 2,000,000
1998 $ 2,100,000
1999 $ 3,000,000
2000 $ 3,900,000
2001 $ 4,300,000
2002 $ 5,000,000
2003 $ 6,250,000
2004 $ 8,230,000
2005 $ 9,330,000
2006 $ 10,088,000
2007 $ 11,033,000
2008 $ 11,270,000
2009 $ 9,076,000
2010 $ 5,252,000
2011 $ 3,276,000
2012 $ 2,472,000

Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan

Adopted July 17, 2008

The Morris County Farmland Preservation Program began with the permanent preservation of the Cupo Farm, a 14-acre farm in Washington Township, on December 28, 1987. Since 1987, over 8,000 acres of farmland have been permanently preserved. Interest in the program continues. With 29,998 acres of farm assessed property in Morris County (as of December 2007), there is still a lot of work to be done.

Due to the growing success of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) adopted new program rules that streamline the preservation process. The new rules allow a more timely expenditure of public preservation funds and provide the ability to keep up with the increased development pressure in the State.

A major component of the new program rules is the development and adoption of a County Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan (Plan). This Plan allows for preservation applications to be processed more efficiently and provides a more strategic approach to preserving farmland in our County.

On July 17, 2008, the Morris CADB and the Morris County Planning Board held a joint Public Hearing regarding the Plan and the modification of the Morris County Agricultural Development Area (ADA). Following the Public Hearing, the Morris County Planning Board adopted the Plan as an element of the Morris County Master Plan. The Morris CADB adopted the Plan and approved the modification of the ADA.








Farm Eligibility:

To review the criteria utilized by the Morris CADB to select and rank farms, please see Policy: P-8, Easement Purchase Program Eligibility and Ranking System(PDF, 20KB)  and Policy: P-9, Agricultural Development Area (ADA)(PDF, 16KB) .