AmericanFarm.com

ESLC monitoring area ag’s future (Editorial)

(Nov. 25, 2014) At the polls on Nov. 4, and by a praise-worthy margin, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment that would dedicate money from a business tax to support and fund open space and farmland preservation.
In the most urbanized state in the nation, New Jersey voters have left no doubt as to how precious is their open land.
In 13 previous elections, bond issues to support the state’s “Green Acres” program have passed.
This one made that support permanent.
New Jersey’s dedication to preserve its breathing space, so to speak, is duplicated along the East Coast and throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
Last Thursday, the chieftains of agriculture in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia joined a huge crowd in Easton, Md., to celebrate agriculture and farming and to explore ways to proect it in an ever-more populous world.
The meeting was the 15th annual Eastern Shore Planning Conference hosted by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and themed, “The Future of Eastern Shore Agriculture,”
A keynote address by Andrew McElwaine, president of the American Farmland Trust, opened the conference and a panel consisting of Maryland Ag Secretary Earl “Buddy” Hance, Delaware Ag Secretary Ed Kee and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore explored the topic, “The Future of Eastern Shore Agriculture.”
In its invitation to the conference, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy painted this picture:
“You know that feeling crossing the Bay Bridge, heading east, and the marshes and farms of the Eastern Shore spread out before you? That feeling would be gone today if not for the efforts of those who love this place, and it could be gone tomorrow if we don’t keep up the fight.
“Nearly 25 years ago, a small group of Eastern Shore leaders gathered around a common concern that the Eastern Shore was repeating the mistakes of other rural areas. Our prime farmland and important wildlife habitat were being devoured by poorly planned residential development scattered across the countryside. Our towns were suffering from economic neglect. In short, we were fast losing much of what was special about the Eastern Shore.
“With that spirit, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was founded in 1990 and, with the support of members like you, we have changed the conversation about the Eastern Shore’s future.
“From fear of loss, a new vision emerged for the Eastern Shore — a future where our towns are vibrant, our working lands are thriving, and our rural countryside and way of life are protected.”

Thus far in this adventure, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has preserved more than 56,000 acres on 297 properties from Cecil County to Dorchester County — all of it preserved in perpetuity.
In addition, it has been working in towns to ensure they are economically and ecologically sustainable, attracting smart investment and development, and encouraging a centralization of commercial and industrial activity.
“Sprawl” is not in the ESLC vocabulary.
Indeed, “The Future of Eastern Shore Agriculture” hangs in the balance.