Farm Preservation Easements
Farm Preservation Program
From 1982 to 1997, 384 Allegheny County farms disappeared, resulting in a net loss of 10,000 acres of farmland. Because many of the lost farms were architecturally significant and more than a century old, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation committed resources to address this issue in a cost-effective way. The result was Landmarks’ Historic Rural Preservation Program.
The Program primarily involves the protection of Allegheny County’s historic and/or architecturally significant rural buildings and properties threatened by commercial and residential development, primarily by placing easements on these properties that help to maintain the agricultural focus of the property or permit an appropriate adaptive reuse of the property.
The Program also informs farmers about ways they can realize the value of their historic farms without having to sell their property to commercial developers. Options include:
The Historic Farm Preservation Program has played a significant role in the protection of five historic farm complexes and more than 1,000 acres of adjoining farmland.
Even In the Country, Protecting the Places That Make Pittsburgh Home (and Deterring Sprawl)
When Lucille Tooke gave her farm to a charitable remainder trust to benefit Landmarks in late 2000, she had no idea that her gift would lead to the creation of our Historic Farm Preservation Program and motivate a local foundation to make a major grant that helped us preserve five additional farms with historic buildings and more than 1,300 acres of farmland.
Landmarks believed that, like Mrs. Tooke, many local farmers were concerned about rising taxes and urban sprawl, factors that have played a significant role in the loss of nearly half of Allegheny County’s farms between 1982 and 2002. For multi-generational family farmers, we believed that planned gifts and preservation easements provided an alternative to selling historic farms to the highest bidder, usually a commercial developer.
A major local foundation granted $500,000 to us to find out if we were correct. By the close of 2003, Landmarks had added another $600,000 to that total and achieved the following results:
While Landmarks currently has no funding to purchase preservation easements, we still accept them by gift, and we remain committed to finding creative ways to protect historic farm buildings and adjoining land whenever possible. Owners of historic farms in and around Allegheny County are encouraged to contact Landmarks to discuss their preservation goals.