The Land Conservancy of Adams County recently partnered with Mount Joy Township residents Lee and Jean Bentz to preserve the couple’s 28-acre farm along Barlow-Two Taverns Road. The farm joins six other preserved properties within a mile radius in southern Cumberland and Mount Joy townships.
“We’ve always been conservation-minded, and we’ve always lived on our own farms when we could,” says Lee Bentz. The Bentzes bought their first farm in 1967—87 acres in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. After moving to various properties out of state, they returned to Pennsylvania in 1977 and bought their current farm in Mount Joy Township. Over the years, they have explored ways to protect their land from development. Earlier this year, after conferring with their children, the Bentzes approached the Land Conservancy to begin the process of writing a conservation easement to preserve their 28-acre property forever.
After retiring from the Adams County Soil Conservation Service, Bentz went to work at the State Department of Agriculture as the Integrated Pest Management/Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator. Both he and Jean, a retired banking professional, worked their farm in their free time. Eventually their health and the lack of available labor curtailed their work. Now they farm just enough land to provide for the beef cattle they raise, and rent the rest to neighbors.
Lee Bentz loves his tractors almost as much as his farm. “I’m a tractor nut,” he admits, joking that he needs more land to play with them. He has six full-size Farmalls, a small compact diesel, and four garden tractors. He also collects model tractors, beginning with a model of every tractor he ever owned or drove, “and then it just went on from there,” he says. Jean shares Lee’s passion for tractors. She began driving them when she was five years old, pulling a combine for her father. “She’d rather be out farming with me than here in the kitchen,” Lee discloses.
The Bentzes are proud of the Land Conservancy signs they’re posting to show that their farm is preserved in its current undeveloped state, forever. They even added color to their signs to increase their impact. Lee notes that once farmland is developed, everything changes—the water, the wildlife, even the soil itself are affected negatively when farmland is developed into housing or put into industrial use.
One of the Land Conservancy’s goals is to create large contiguous tracts of preserved land that help promote agricultural viability, diverse wildlife habitat, and compatible land uses. The Bentz farm adds to a significant cluster of preserved properties in southern Cumberland and Mount Joy townships.
The Bentzes chose to donate their conservation easement rather than seeking compensation for limiting development rights to their land. While no two property owners’ financial situations are the same, one benefit of donating a conservation easement may potentially be a significant federal income tax deduction. Many easement donors have reduced their federal income taxes substantially by preserving their properties through a donated easement. It’s a win-win situation: landowners get a financial benefit and the peace of mind knowing that their property will be protected for generations to come, and the public gets to enjoy the benefits of the property’s groundwater recharge potential and the beautiful agricultural and rural landscape that make Adams County so special.
The Land Conservancy of Adams County is an accredited nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving the rural lands and character of Adams County. It works with interested landowners to develop conservation easements that protect the county’s open spaces, farmlands, forests, and water resources. For more information about the Land Conservancy, call (717) 334-2828, email [email protected], or visit www.LCACnet.org.