Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, right, and Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore visit a 34-acre parcel of farmland Dec. 5 that was preserved with $3.4 million in County Open Space and Farmland Preservation funds.Full size photo

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, right, and Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore visit a 34-acre parcel of farmland Dec. 5 that was preserved with $3.4 million in County Open Space and Farmland Preservation funds.

Contact: Julie Willmot
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Farm in Crosswicks Creek section to remain operational

TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County has successfully preserved nearly 35 acres of farmland in the southeast portion of Hamilton Township to help create a large swath of preserved farms in the area, County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced today.

The property was slated to be developed into a high-priced housing development after the township planning board approved plans by developer The Verde Group in 2005.

But the County recognized the value of the land due to its proximity to several other previously preserved farms and to the Crosswicks Creek watershed and successfully negotiated a purchase with Todd Ochsner of the Verde Group.

"We felt our Open Space Master Plan placed a strong emphasis on preserving contiguous open space and farmlands, and that's something we've been able to do very well here in the Crosswicks section of Hamilton," said Hughes as he walked the parcel today with Hamilton Mayor Glen D. Gilmore, Mercer County Planning Director Donna Lewis, and Ochsner.

"We're happy to have a great partner in Hamilton Township in Glen Gilmore, who has helped preserve seven farms as mayor, including this new addition to the farm belt in Crosswicks."

Mercer County purchased the property for $3.4 million using funds from the Open Space/ Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and closed on the sale Oct. 22, 2007.

Hughes said the parcel would remain an operational farm and cited the importance of retaining these types of working farms for the benefit of future generations.

Ochsner, who said he grew up on a farm, agreed to sell the property in part because he appreciated the County's need to preserve open spaces and farms next to one another.
"We worked collaboratively with the County and the township and ended up looking at the whole picture," Ochsner said. "The County obviously desired not to have this land built out when it is adjacent to farms on either side of it. Because of my background, I could see how that was beneficial."

For his part, Gilmore said he was proud to see another large farm preserved in a township whose bustling economy illustrates its population growth in recent years.

"We're the state's eighth-largest municipality, but within our 40 square miles, we've been able to secure this great asset for our grandchildren, and that is this large belt of farmland," he said.

The 34-acre parcel is situated adjacent to two properties preserved by the State Agricultural Development Committee, the former Lengyen farm and the Ellis Farm. Nearby, Mercer County has preserved or protected the proposed Sawmill Estates property, a portion of the Hamilton YMCA camp along Sawmill Road, the Tall Cedars property, and the Banner farm along the Crosswicks Creek.