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Chester County Ag Council

Geoff Shellington — Chester County Department of Parks & Preservation

Agricultural Programs Coordinator

Geoff Shellington

What drew you to working in the land preservation field, specifically ag land preservation?

There are so many things that drew me to ag land preservation, but the one that stands out from the rest is the sale of my grandparents' farm. That farm meant the world to our family, but when I was in college it had to be sold. I hated that feeling of loss, but I knew that my family wasn't the only one that has gone through this — and I knew we wouldn't be the last. I am now in the business of keeping farms in families and protecting the agricultural heritage and character of our county, and I couldn't be happier!

What is your educational background?

I graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science.

What is the difference between an agricultural easement and a conservation easement?

A 'general' conservation easement shares many similarities with an agricultural easement, but they are different in a few key ways. Most significantly, ag easements require land to be in agricultural productivity in perpetuity. Other conservation easements may have farming components, but they rarely require permanent farming of the subject ground. While public access is allowed on some conservation easements, there is no public access provided for agricultural easements.

What are some of the most common reasons people decide to pursue an agricultural easement?

Over the 15 years I've spent helping farmers preserve their land, I've heard many different reasons why they pursue ag easements. The one that I hear most often is that they want to ensure that their property remains a farm long after they are gone. Farmers have strong ties to their land, so knowing that their farm will always remain a farm is important to them. Another reason folks may pursue an ag easement is for financial compensation: landowners are paid a per-acre easement value that is determined by an appraisal. This financial gain can be put toward an estate, satisfying a mortgage, purchasing additional farming equipment or land, or anything else!

Are you seeing any new or upcoming trends in ag land preservation?

A trend we are seeing is the steady increase in young next generation farmers. We have worked very hard focusing our efforts on creating large land masses of preserved farmland. The knowledge that these farmland masses are preserved in perpetuity ensures the stability of the infrastructure, as well as the future for our next generation farmers.

Learn more about Chester County's Ag Land Preservation Program.