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During November 2023, Berks Nature attained a major organizational milestone with the closing of a new agricultural conservation easement on the JAM Farm in Schuylkill County; with this easement, Berks Nature has secured over 10,000 acres of open space under conservation easements, protecting them from future development in perpetuity.

While Berks Nature’s primary geographic focus for land protection has been and remains centered on Berks County, we do assist the Schuylkill County Conservancy by establishing conservation easements on properties in valuable ecological landscapes (like the Kittatinny Ridge) just over the border in Schuylkill County.

The 75.7-acre JAM Farm is one such property.

Mark and Becky Hoover purchased the land in 2022 with forward-thinking ambitions and a vision for the future. Thinking first for their family, they named the farm “JAM”, an acronym both for Becky’s grandfather, James A. Miller (who financed the farm’s purchase) and for the Hoover’s children: Josh, Allison, and McKinley. The Hoovers hope that their children will one day inherit their namesake farm, perpetuating the region’s long-held (and long-loved) legacy of cultivating the land.

But the Hoovers were also motivated by a greater community calling in purchasing and easing their farm.

Fall views of the JAM Farm Easement in Schuylkill County.

The farm, tucked within a scenic valley between the Kittatinny Ridge and Second Mountain, beautifully melds some of the region’s most prominent natural features: fertile soil and forested wetlands.

Diverse landscapes such as this provide open space, productive agricultural soil, and clean drinking water. It’s a service that the Hoovers wish to perpetuate for future generations, and to do so sensitive environments like these require protection. For example, the JAM Farm’s woodlands harbor the headwaters of the Little Swatara Creek in the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed, which provides drinking water for millions of people across New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

There is also strength in numbers.

Aggregated clusters of protected lands create larger, more continuous swatches of habitat but are also viewed more favorably by easement assistance programs, whose funding can rarely keep pace with community interest. Not only does the newly preserved JAM Farm fill a gap in a growing collection of protected lands, but the Hoovers’ easement also gives their neighbors a competitive edge to enroll their own properties under agricultural easement programs.

The JAM Farm easement represents a powerful step forward not just for the Hoover family, or for Berks Nature’s now 10,000+ acre easement portfolio, but for agricultural conservation as a whole along the Kittatinny Ridge.

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