Farm Programs Overview

The Department of Open Space Preservation works with the County Agricultural Land Preservation Board (ALPB) to preserve farmland in Chester County. The County seeks to proactively preserve the agricultural base that retains Chester County’s leading industry. The Programs preserve farmland utilizing the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement. An agricultural conservation easement is a legal restriction that limits the use of the property to agricultural purposes. The landowner is financially compensated for the sale of an agricultural conservation easement. The value for the agricultural conservation easement is determined by an independent, licensed appraiser. The ALPB makes an offer based on the appraisal. Landowners retain all other rights and privileges of the private land ownership. The agricultural conservation easement runs with the land and legally binds future owners to the easement provisions.
What is an agricultural conservation easement?

An Agricultural Conservation Easement is a legally binding document recorded in the County Recorder of Deeds office with the deed of a farm property. The agricultural conservation easement perpetually restricts the use of the land to agriculture and directly associated uses.

Why Would a Landowner Want to Sell an Agricultural Conservation Easement?
  • Selling an agricultural conservation easement can ensure that a family’s farmland will be protected from development and used for agricultural purposes only.
  • Landowners receive financial compensation for granting an agricultural conservation easement and still retain ownership of their land.
  • Landowners can be more confident that their farms will be passed down to the next generation by using the agricultural conservation easement as an estate planning tool.

Why Preserve Farmland?
  • Encourages the continuation of Pennsylvania’s extensive agriculture industry and local supplies of fresh food.
  • Protects natural and historical resources such as productive soils, surface water, groundwater, air quality, wildlife habitats, scenic beauty, quality of life, and Chester County’s history.
  • Keeps property taxes constant. Farmland use has been shown to provide more in tax revenues to municipalities and school districts than they consume in municipal and school services; therefore, the preservation of farmland can keep property taxes down for all landowners in a community.

What are the Programs?
  • The ALPB provides oversight for two programs - the Commonwealth/County Program and the Municipal Challenge Grant Program.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply to both programs. This does not require two separate submissions - just check the box "both" on the application.
  • There are minor differences between the programs and how the applications are scored. These can be seen by comparing the program Regulations (available online) or by speaking with staff.
  • One main difference in the programs is that the Commonwealth/County program requires a minimum of 50 acres unless the farm is next to preserved ground, while the Challenge Grant has a minimum "stand alone" size of 25 acres. Both programs allow 10-acre applications if immediately adjacent to preserved ground.
  • The other major difference is that Challenge Grant projects require 50% of the funding to come from sources other than the State or County. Examples of permitted funding sources include donated value from the landowner, funds from the Township where the farm is located (the County will inquire on your behalf,) nonprofit conservation organizations, or any combination of these that equals 50%.
Other General Criteria
Farmland tracts must:
  • Be located in an agricultural security area
  • Contain the greater of 50% or 10 acres of harvested cropland, pasture, or grazing land
Procedure for Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase
  1. Application submission.
  2. Ranking of applications using the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) System developed by USDA. Ranking system sorts farms into order for purchase.

    NOTE: Applicants who request the smallest percentage of county funds and offer the greatest percentage in donated value will receive priority consideration.
  3. Appraisal is authorized for farms qualified for funding.
    Offer to farm owner = market value less (-) agricultural value
  4. County board approval
  5. Offer to landowner
  6. Agreement of sale
  7. Boundary survey
  8. State or Township approvals as necessary
  9. Settlement
Application Information
Information on applying to sell an agricultural conservation easement can be obtained by contacting the office via phone, email, regular mail, or online at (then click Farmland Preservation).

We are also available to give presentations to civic groups, township committees, and to meet with landowners in a group or one on one. Just contact us with your needs and we'll be happy to work with you. Click here to send us an email if you would like to arrange a visit or ask questions.