Artists Showcase Farmland Preservation at State Capitol
Calling attention to the need to preserve farmland, representatives of the Centre County Farmland Trust, the Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania, lawmakers and state officials gathered Oct. 4 for a press conference in the main hall of the Capitol Rotunda at the Statehouse in Harrisburg.
“It is my hope that this exhibit will represent the fertile valleys and wooded ridges that are so characteristic of central Pennsylvania,” said Martha Grout Taylor, member of FPA and liaison from FPA to the Farmland Trust. “By showcasing the beauty of our agricultural heritage, I hope that government officials will recognize the need to preserve that heritage.”
Protect & Preserve a Vital Resource
Rep. Paul Takac (D – Centre County) hosted the event, held in honor of FPA’s October exhibit in the Capitol’s East Rotunda of more than 40 paintings and photographs capturing the beauty and heritage of Central Pennsylvania farmland. “Our Farm Heritage,” the exhibit, represents the work of 14 artist-members of the Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is blessed with over 7.3 million acres of farmland,” said Takac. “It’s critically important that we protect and preserve that vital resource and our rich agricultural heritage, while also continuing to support Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry. Agriculture generates over $132 billion annually.”
Inspiration for the Work of Preservation
FPA and the Centre County Farmland Trust share a mission to preserve farmland, some of which is being lost to development and other land uses.
The Farmland Trust protects farmland by working with families and landowners to establish and maintain conservation easements on their land. The Farmland Preservation Artists capture, celebrate and showcase the beauty of farmland, agricultural heritage and farm life.
“These artists inspire us to work toward their vision to help the central Pennsylvania region and all of Pennsylvania to preserve farmland,” said Dan Guss, CCFT president, pictured, left with CCFT Treasurer Jen Shuey (far left) and Gail Guss (center). “Together, with preservationists and legislators, we will collaborate to make their vision a reality.”
Sen. Cris Dush (R — District 25, including part of Centre County) said the exhibit brought out the beauty of our natural resources and offered an opportunity for the public to pause and consider what we have here in Pennsylvania.
“When there are threats against that, it doesn’t just affect the beauty of what we have around us,” said Dush. “It also affects our ability to produce the foods that provide for us and sustain our lives every day.”
The number of farm acres in Pennsylvania declined by 6 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture. Pennsylvania lost 10 percent of its total farms during this period.
Officials from the Pa. Department of Agriculture spoke on behalf of the state’s agricultural land preservation program. Centre County’s Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) Program preserves farmland by compensating landowners for the development rights they give up when they place an Agricultural Conservation Easement on their property.
“Pennsylvania leads the nation in preserving prime farmland to produce food in the future,” said Cheryl Cook, Agriculture Department deputy secretary, Pa. Department of Agriculture.
About CCFT and FPA
The Centre County Farmland Trust is a private, non-profit organization not affiliated with government, and dedicated to preserving productive farmland in central Pennsylvania. CCFT grew out of Centre County’s PACE program as a way by which landowners could donate an easement. CCFT works with willing farm families to place conservation easements on their farmland, ensuring that it is preserved forever, regardless of future ownership.
The Farmland Preservation Artists of Central PA formed in 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania and the Centre County Farmland Trust, with a mission to promote the preservation and appreciation of farmland through the visual arts.