The predominant land use in the Township is agriculture, as noted in the Township Master Plan. In addition to farmland adding to the scenic landscape and providing the land basis for the industry, farming is one of the most important economic enterprises in our Township.
As of August 2007, 4,849 acres were classified as farmland, equaling 17% of the Township's total of 27,986 acres. In addition, approximately 1,300 acres of over 3,000 total acres in Six Mile Run are currently leased to farmers. When this figure is added to an additional 400 acres of Township-owned open space land leased to farmers, the total is 6,549 acres, which is 23.4% of the Township.
One of the goals of the Township’s Open Space Preservation Plan is to support, promote and advance agriculture as a viable economic enterprise in our Township, while preserving the historic agricultural vistas. To achieve this goal, the Township has obtained Planning Incentive Grants (PIG grants) from the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), utilized existing Open Space Trust Fund allocations, has drafted a Municipal Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan (pending approval), started a Community Farmers Market, and worked with other Township, County, State and Non-Profit groups to form a cohesive vision for agriculture.
To preserve farmland, the Township purchases development rights. This process begins with an application, which is reviewed by the Agriculture Advisory Committee, followed by the Open Space Advisory Committee and then the Township Council. After a submitted application receives approval from the SADC, the Township will order two appraisals to determine the easement value. If an offer is accepted by the landowner, the Township will then enter into contract with that landowner and begin the due-diligence process. Upon closing, a Deed of Easement will be filed in the Office of the Somerset County Clerk, preserving the land for agriculture and prohibiting future non-agricultural development in perpetuity. The landowner retains fee-simple ownership of the land and can manage the agricultural output as he/she finds appropriate.
The Agriculture Advisory Committee can also help to provide guidance and assistance to farmers regarding Right-to-Farm, stewardship and best management practices. We wish to educate the community about farming in the Township, while providing up-to-date information about the industry to current and prospective farmers.
The Township started the Franklin Township Community Farmers Market in 2017 with the goal of promoting locally-grown food and healthier lifestyles for our residents and visitors. The first season of the Farmers Market was very successful for farmers, vendors and customers alike. Healthier Somerset, a coalition created to improve the health and well-being of everyone who lives and works in Somerset County, presented an award to the Farmers Market at the end of 2017, solidifying the purpose and accomplishments of the Market.
For questions related to agriculture or farmland preservation in Franklin Township, please contact Tara Kenyon, AICP/PP, Land Preservation and Management Consultant at Tara.Kenyon@franklinnj.gov or 732-873-2500 x6279.