An existing greenbelt of preserved land in Kingwood Township just grew even larger, thanks to the efforts of Hunterdon Land Trust (HLT) and its partners.

HLT led the way in preserving the 26-acre Kollmer and the 48-acre DeSapio farms, both of which are situated within an existing corridor of preserved farmland.

“These aren’t large farms, but they do fill in important puzzle pieces within this area,” notes Jacqueline Middleton, HLT’s Interim Executive Director.

“One of the priorities of farm preservation is contiguous agricultural areas, a criterion that both Kollmer and DeSapio met,” said Bob Hornby, Hunterdon County Agriculture Development Board Administrator. “We have found agriculture is most viable when farms operate side by side with minimal residential contact.”

The Ridge Road portion of Kingwood has been a mix of residential development on converted farmland. The DeSapio farm adjoins previous farmland preservation projects on two sides to create a 150-acre block, the Kollmer property creates about a 225-acre block that joins across Ridge Road to another roughly 325 acres, Hornby said.

Both properties were compelling targets because the Little Nishisakawick Creek runs either near or through them. This Category One Stream – a designation given to protect waterways with exceptional ecological, recreational or water-supply significance – springs from the wetlands of Kingwood and winds southwest for about four miles before emptying into the Delaware River in Frenchtown.

Partners in this preservation were the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), Hunterdon County and Kingwood Township. HLT provided funding through a contract with the NRCS that provides federal funding for farmland preservation through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

“These are two farms that were preserved largely because of this federal grant,” Middleton noted. “Without it, it would have been much harder to do. Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without our wonderful partners.”

SADC, Hunterdon County, and Kingwood Township provided funding as well.  Middleton added that using federal money in these preservations, allows us to stretch our state, county, and local preservation dollars further and ultimately preserve more land in Hunterdon County. 

Wesley and Melinda Kollmer’s farm is adjacent to the 52-acre Dalrymple Farm, which was preserved by Hunterdon Land Trust in 2019. The property is a natural habitat for numerous birds including the Bald Eagle, Bobolink, American Kestrel and Savannah Sparrow.

For the Kollmers, the wrong place turned out to be the right place. In 2018, the couple was looking for a farm to purchase, but their GPS led them to the wrong address. They immediately fell in love with the land they had stumbled upon serendipitously and decided it couldn’t hurt to ask the owners if they were willing to sell. Much to their delight, the answer was yes.

“We had been looking at houses to buy and just couldn’t find The One,” Melinda Kollmer said. “We randomly found this property and it just clicked, we could see the potential for our home and family to grow here. The creek runs through the back of our property, and I knew it would be a magical place to raise our kids! This property allows us to dream. We could have cows, pigs, chickens, a huge garden; we can make this farm into anything we want for our family.”

The 48-acre Martin and Cathleen DeSapio farm, located down the street from the Kollmers, also serves as a natural habitat to Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Brown Thrashers, the Great Blue Heron and other birds. The Little Nishisakawick Creek runs through the property too.

“These farms represent the core of HLT’s mission,” Middleton said. “We don’t just focus on big farms; we want to promote farmland preservation throughout Hunterdon County and we’re keeping a close eye on smaller farms that are strategically important. In this instance, we’re helping expand one of Kingwood’s preserved farmland corridors.

“And HLT is not done working. We’re hoping to get another property preserved in that area in 2023,” Middleton added.

Both preservations support the goals of the National Park Service’s Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic Program, which aim to protect the natural, historic and recreational resources that earned this stretch of the river the Wild and Scenic designation.