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Monongalia farm protected with county’s first agricultural conservation easement

Story by Matt Harvey at WV News

A 70-acre farm in fast-growing Monongalia County has been protected permanently, keeping the property’s streams, forest, and farmland safe for agricultural production and scenic enjoyment for years to come.

The West Virginia Land Trust, together with Linda Yoder, owner of Owl Creek Farm, completed the land protection project after signing the county’s first farmland conservation easement.

“Linda’s efforts to protect her property are significant not only because it is Monongalia County’s first-ever agricultural conservation easement, but also because it keeps the property from being subdivided or developed. The property protects agricultural land of statewide significance, conserves forest land, and protects a stream that is within a drinking water protection area for the Morgantown Utility Board,” said Adam Webster, WV Land Trust Conservation Project manager.

According to the Land Trust, Yoder leases part of the conserved property to Mountain Harvest Farm, which was recently awarded as West Virginia’s “2023 Conservation Farm of the Year.”

Mountain Harvest Farm is operated by Mary Oldham and Chico Ramirez, who operate an organic farm that sells produce at the Morgantown Farmers Market and through a community supported agriculture program.

“When I first set foot on this beautiful land in 1976, walked up a streambed, and smelled the pennyroyal underfoot, I felt this was a special place. The dream of sustaining it began to grow,” Yoder said.

The Owl Creek Farm property is protected by a legal mechanism, known as a conservation easement, which is a voluntary agreement with a landowner that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.

“The types of land uses or conservation values that the West Virginia Land Trust typically works with landowners to protect include agricultural or rural landscapes, riverside habitats and water quality, historical sites, unique habitats important for wildlife, land adjacent to other public properties, and those places that provide recreational opportunities for the public or otherwise provide a community benefit,” Webster said.

According to the American Farmland Trust, the United States is losing 2.2 million acres of rural lands to urban sprawl every year. This means that across the United States more than an acre of agricultural land is lost every single second. West Virginia has not escaped the loss of farmland. From 1964 to 2012, The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that West Virginia lost 13,480 farms and 1,671,918 acres of farmland.

“Protecting our farm is just one piece of a bigger conservation puzzle that needs to be pieced together in our local area, across West Virginia, and the nation. We are happy to be part of a solution that makes this land available for future generations to farm and learn about the outdoors,” Yoder said.

Story by Matt Harvey at WV News:

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