Four Montgomery County farms with a total of almost 260 acres could remain farms forever now that the owners have agreed to sell the rights to develop them.
This would bring to 110 the number of farms, or about 7,200 acres, under conservation easements in the county, according to Brian N. O'Leary of the Planning Commission staff. The deals must pass state review first, however.
The conservation easements for the four properties will cost $10.8 million. The county will pay $3.3 million for the easements while the state will pay $5.8 million and municipalities in which the farms are located will pay almost $1.8 million.
One of the farms under consideration is the Earl and Clyde Moyer 66-acre feed crop farm in Franconia Township.
''It's sitting right in the middle to create a block of preserved farms,'' O'Leary said. ''If you drive into that part of Franconia, you really get the sense that this is farm country.''
Willow Creek Farms in Worcester Township is another to be preserved. It is the only certified organic produce farm in the county, according to O'Leary. The 104-acre farm is unusually large for the county, O'Leary said, and ''a good example of how farming can remain viable in Montgomery County as they adjust to changes in the farming economy.''
''It's what consumers want,'' he said. ''Farmers have to adjust to consumer demand and adjust to serving the local market.''
Another farm near Willow Creek Farms — the 45-acre Elizabeth Schierenbeck horse farm in Worcester — also is under easement consideration, as is the 44-acre Wismer dairy farm in Trappe.
Montgomery County has fewer acres of conserved farmland than some neighboring counties, including Berks, Bucks and Lehigh, O'Leary said, because less farmland is available for purchase and because prices for Montgomery County farmland is higher than in some other areas.