With the assistance of the Tinicum Conservancy, Carl Kwartnik and Maureen Santina recently conserved their 57-acre farm in Durham Township through the Bucks County Agricultural Open Space program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program.

The property sits on the upper southern slope of the Cooks Creek watershed, which is a Pennsylvania exceptional value stream, and borders Lehnenberg Road for 1,600 feet, with scenic views of the nearby mountains. The area is notable for its complex geology. The Monroe Border Fault runs through the southern portion of the property and its underlying bedrock, part of the Hardyston Formation, dates back to the Precambrian era. The property features a variety of gneisses, including horneblende, felsic, and mafic.

The path to protecting this beautiful farm started five years ago when the owners purchased the land and then approached the Tinicum Conservancy. They wanted to know what their options were to protect the property’s rich soils, agricultural heritage, and natural resources. While there was quick consensus on how to protect the property, funding for the conservation easement proved more challenging. Several funding sources that the farm qualified for had recently run out of funding or had changed their priorities.

“It’s unusual when we’re not able to pull together funding for an important land protection effort like Carl and Maureen’s farm,” explained Tinicum Conservancy Executive Director Jim Engel.

But Carl and Maureen refused to give up, and with Tinicum’s guidance, they applied for a grant from the Bucks County Agricultural Open Space program. There was only one problem: qualifying properties needed to be actively farmed for at least three years prior to acceptance, and although the property contained an abundance of fertile soil, more than two decades had passed since it had last been farmed. At one point, a large subdivision had been considered; before that, the land was used as a training site for hunting dogs.

Carl and Maureen were undeterred. They immediately set about removing invasive plants, including large stands of autumn olive, and returning the fields to their original state. Over the next three years, they established an alpaca operation and leased a portion of the land for livestock, which enabled their application to finally be approved. Today, they are thrilled that their beautiful property has regained its former glory and they love the idea that it will continue to be farmed for generations to come.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help of the Tinicum Conservancy,” said Maureen.