Jeff and Beulah Hartlaub met when they were 16 and married right out of high school. They raised their three daughters, Sherry, Angie, and Amanda, in a home outside Littlestown; and with his father, John, Jeff ran Hartlaub and Sons Auto Parts. For years Jeff and Beulah had their eyes on a beautiful piece of farmland right up the road from their house that was owned by B. Guy and Mary Smith, and they dreamed of one day owning it themselves. After the Smiths passed away and the land went up for auction in 2001, the Hartlaubs knew this was their chance. “I didn’t go to the auction because I was too nervous,” Beulah said, thinking back. Later that afternoon Jeff came home with a smile on his face—the farm was theirs.
The Hartlaubs set to work renovating the old farmhouse and moved there in August 2002. An old Pennsylvania bank barn stands on the historic property as well, along with several outbuildings, which the couple refurbished so that Jeff could store his antique car collection there.
Sadly, Jeff Hartlaub died suddenly in December 2006, leaving Beulah to care for their farm on her own. “He only got to live here five years,” she said. “But I decided to stay here and live on the farm. Our daughters have fond memories of visiting here when the Smiths owned it when they were growing up. They would often come here on errands to buy fruit and meat from the farm.” The couple’s daughters, now grown and married, live not far away, and Beulah’s four grandchildren today enjoy coming to the farm to help her in the garden and to see the deer and other wildlife.
On December 11 this year, Beulah Hartlaub completed a conservation easement on nearly 56 acres of her land, preserving the property as beautifully rolling farmland in perpetuity. A conservation easement, a voluntary legal agreement attached to the property title, specifies the kind and amount of development the landowner wants to allow on the property now and in the future. Beulah chose to preserve virtually her entire farm, setting aside small sections for her children and grandchildren to build on in the future, if they so choose.
“I wanted to preserve our farm because I feel it’s very important to protect as much farmland as possible—too many farms are sold to developers,” Hartlaub said. “I’m also doing this to honor my late husband, because he loved this farm as much as I do. He would always say how much he hated to see farms sold for development, and I know this is what he would want me to do.”
The Hartlaub farm straddles the Union and Mount Pleasant township line on gently rolling land. It is planted primarily in field crops, with tree lines at the property edges that serve as wildlife habitat. Beulah rents the fields to Dwayne Lawrence, a neighboring farmer—“He was farming it when we bought it, so we just stayed with him,” she said, adding that he takes good care of the land, making sure the soil stays fertile and protected from erosion. Lying in the watershed of the South Branch Conewago Creek, the Hartlaub farm is an important resource for groundwater recharge in the southeastern part of Adams County.
Hartlaub had been thinking about preserving her farm on and off for at least five years. “Then I woke up one morning and I said, ‘Okay, Beulah, you need to get this moving because time is flying by.’ I decided it was time to move ahead.”
Once she got started, Hartlaub found that preserving her land was an easy process, especially working with the Land Conservancy’s conservation coordinator, Sarah Kipp. “When I came to the Land Conservancy office and talked with Sarah, she told me everything I needed to know and I felt comfortable moving ahead,” Hartlaub said. “I wanted to be sure to get it done in my lifetime. I’m glad that I was able to see the process through. Hopefully it will motivate some of my neighbors who have farms to do this.”
Hartlaub donated her easement to the Land Conservancy, which means that she accepted no compensation for the property value she forfeited by restricting development on her land. Her easement brings the Land Conservancy’s total preserved acreage in 2014 to 1,060. Since it was founded in 1995, the Land Conservancy has worked with more than100 Adams County landowners to preserve a total of 9,303 acres in 134 conservation easements.
A member-supported, fully accredited nonprofit land trust, the Land Conservancy’s mission is to preserve Adams County’s beautiful rural lands and character by working with interested landowners to protect their property from unplanned development both today and in the future. For more information about the Land Conservancy, visit www.LCACnet.org, email [email protected], or call (717) 334-2828.