Property is the largest remaining farm in the rural west of Howard County that is eligible for the ALPP and one of the largest single additions in over a decade
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today signed a bill to acquire an agricultural preservation easement on property that is currently owned by the Dickey family but will be purchased by the Sharp family. The easement of 128 acres adds to the almost 23,000 acres of farmland that is already in the Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP). The overall cost of the easement will be $5.4 million, funded by 25% of the 1.25% local transfer tax that is dedicated to the ALPP. Photos of the event can be found here.
Agriculture plays a vital role in Howard County, supporting our economy and our environment. Our farms provide locally grown food, minimize our environmental footprint, and create jobs. As we confront the threat of climate change, we must enact thoughtful policy that ensures we protect and preserve agricultural land and support the many people whose livelihoods depend on our farms.
ALPP easements are voluntary. A farmer whose land meets certain size and soil criteria can offer to sell a perpetual easement to the County, while owning the land and continuing to farm. The farm may be sold, but the easement, which restricts the development of the property, remains with the land, and binds all future owners.
“Thank you to all involved who have kept this program going, and for working so hard to get this land,” said Councilmember David Yungmann, District 5. “If you look at a map this was a donut hole in the middle of all preserved properties, so it’s a real prize to get this into our agricultural preservation program.”
The newly added Dickey property preserves land that is primarily in a corn and soybean rotation and is comprised of 97% Class I, II and III soils. There is a high concentration of preserved land nearby, including the Dickey family’s 290-acre ALPP easement farm to the west, which has been in the Program since 1984.
In June 2019, County Executive Calvin Ball re-opened the ALPP after the program was shut down by the previous administration in the summer of 2018, for a year due to a budget shortfall. By working with the Department of Planning and Zoning, the Finance Department, and the Agricultural Preservation Board, Ball was able to responsibly restore this important program and update the scoring system used to determine the easement price. Ball began accepting applications to the ALPP once the County Council approved the revised scoring system in July 2020. The first property in the current acquisition cycle, comprising 35 acres, settled in June 2021. Including the Dickey Farm, there are five additional properties in the acquisition pipeline, totaling nearly 300 acres.
“On behalf of the ALPP, I would like to thank the Dickey and Sharp families for continuing their tradition of preserving land through this program by placing this beautiful working farm under easement,” said Joy Levy, Administrator of the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program. “The Dickey family were pioneers in ag preservation, they put their home farm into the program in 1984, the first year the county started purchasing ag easements. The Sharps have 11 other farms under easements, more than any other family, so both families have contributed a great deal to the County’s farmland forever efforts.”
“If you look at neighboring counties around us, they have not even come close to the percentage of acres we’ve preserved here in Howard County. We are so pleased to have this property enter the Howard County Ag Preservation Program,” said Mickey Day, Chair of the Agricultural Preservation Board. “It is one of the few large tracts remaining and by inclusion in the program, completes an adjacent area of land that will be preserved for future generations.”
Since 1978 Howard County has protected farmland using three methods.
- The purchase of agricultural preservation easements by the County
- The dedication of agricultural preservation parcels as provided for in the County’s zoning regulations
- The purchase of agricultural preservation easements by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation
“As longtime Howard County residents we are happy to see this property go into ag preservation,” said Jonathan Dickey, owner of Dickey Farm. “We’re also pleased that a multigenerational family like the Sharps will continue the farming tradition here for years to come.”
“Thank you to Howard County leadership for the foresight to preserve this farm and other productive land throughout Howard County’s agricultural west,” said Alan Sharp, owner of Sharp Farms. “When I point to our Farmland Forever sign and explain that the farm is in Howard County’s land preservation, this always elicits a smile and a burst of enthusiasm from our visitors. I hope everyone here shares that enthusiasm, as this farm enters the program and becomes farmland forever.”