What You Need to Know
By Ron Eichner
Hey folks, February is the shortest month of the year, and we have Leap Year every four years. During Leap Year, an extra day is added to February; this keeps our calendar aligned correctly with the astronomical seasons. February 29, 2024, is the next Leap Day.
February 2 is Groundhog Day, and interestingly it’s always six weeks to spring regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil sees when he comes out of his den. Phil has been making his annual winter predictions since 1887. If Phil sees his shadow nine out of ten times that gives us six more weeks of winter. The Groundhog Day tradition started in the early 1800s in Germany. Then German immigrants brought the custom here to Pennsylvania. The annual tradition is based upon Candlemas. So, the date February 2 is the midpoint between winter and spring.
February 14 is Valentine’s Day, and the day is named for Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman saint. Presidents’ Day is the third Monday of the month.
With the explosion of developments in the North Hills and around Pennsylvania’s countryside for the last 40 years, customers are surprised how our family farm can continue with the encroachment of multifamily townhouses on two sides of our farm. The answer is it is challenging, but the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, PA Department of Agriculture and our State Legislators do respect one of the state’s largest industries – agriculture.
Farming represents the backbone of Pennsylvania's heritage, with 52,000 farms and 7.3 million acres of farmland, with the average farm acreage being 139. Agriculture and farming are big businesses in Pennsylvania, accounting for $83.8 billion in direct economic output, 280,500 jobs, and $10.9 billion in earnings. Our state is a major producer of milk, eggs, poultry, fruits, vegetables, field corn, soybeans, hay, mushrooms, greenhouse production, Christmas trees, beef, lamb, hogs, chickens, turkeys, ice cream and butter.
The first thing protecting Pennsylvania farms is the Agricultural Security Law, Act 43, which was instituted in 1981. Area farms across the state can form Ag Districts following state guidelines. I was the architect for our area's Ag Security District in 1996. My method and vehicle for farm preservation were unique by design. The North Hills Council of Government has 18 municipalities, and 11 municipalities had family farms that formed our North Hills Ag Security District. Ag districts are entitle to special considerations from local and state governments, thus encouraging the continual use of farmland for productive agricultural purposes. They also have reviews by state, local government, or school districts trying to take valuable farm property for any government projects. Once an Ag District is created, participating farms are eligible to put or sell their family farm's agricultural conservation easement.
Also, Pennsylvania Farmland is eligible to apply for a county use-value assessment under the Farmland and Forestland Assessment Act of 1974, known as Act 156, which is called "Clean and Green." There are three categories Agriculture, Forestry and Open Land, all needing at least ten continuous acreages or more.
Pennsylvania Right to Farm Law of 1982, Act 133, protects agricultural operations from nuisance suits and ordinances prohibiting except farming or agricultural practices. Act #133 defines "Normal Agricultural Operations," which are the customary activities, practices and procedures that agriculture and farms adopt year after year in the production and preparation for marketing livestock and poultry and in the production and harvesting of agriculture, agronomics, horticultural commodities and crops. Act #133 also addresses home buying next to a farm. It is a notice for potential purchasers before entering into an agreement of sale for the real property adjoining a regular agricultural operation. Farmers retain the legal right to conduct generally accepted agricultural practices, farm equipment operations, marketing of farm products, chemical and crop protection of farm structures
Pennsylvania Senate Bill of 1991, Act #166, states that every municipality shall encourage the continuity, development, and viability of agricultural operations within their jurisdictions. Therefore, direct commercial sales or agricultural commodities upon farm property shall be authorized and granted, notwithstanding municipal ordinances, public nuisances, or zoning prohibitions.
These Pennsylvanian Acts and laws protect the hardworking family farms; however, only the farmers know the Acts and laws. This is why for generations, as a family farm, we say, "We are here to support our community; all we need is community support!" You are always welcome for a farm visit to experience what a family farm is all about. Our farm market is packed full of goodness. So, bring a friend and be a friend at Eichner's Whole Farm and Greenhouses at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get "the rest of the story."