Hunterdon Land Trust teamed up with several partners to preserve the Saums Farm off Rockafellows Mill Road in Readington Township. Fifty-five acres of verdant farmland were protected this year in addition to the 50 acres of land that was preserved for public use back in 2021.
The success of this project represents many things to those involved. For Hunterdon Land Trust, it affords the opportunity to fulfill multiple key preservation goals: to preserve both farmland and open space for the public to enjoy.
“The greatest thing about this project to me was the unique opportunity to protect an entire parcel while implementing the appropriate land uses for both the farm and forested areas,” said Jacqueline Middleton, HLT’s director of land acquisition. “We subdivided 105 acres to protect the stream and forested areas while ensuring that the farmland will continue to be farmed.”
For Readington Township, the conclusion of this effort allows it to build upon its successful track record of land preservation. The Saums Farm is contiguous to property preserved decades ago that is now a state wildlife management area. About five other preserved farms can be found in the immediate area; in total Readington has preserved 73 farms within the township, said Mayor Juergen Huelsebusch.
Huelsebusch noted that the Saums Farm offers an ideal example of how Readington works toward preserving land. “This shows how we approach preservation in that it’s not simply a farm or open space on its own, but a combination of the two. Some of the land is appropriated for farmland and some for natural-resource preservation.”
The mayor said the township has several additional preservation projects in the pipeline.
Readington has an overarching goal of preserving land strategically, Huelsebusch noted. The township’s Open Space Advisory Board (OASB) has stated a goal of preserving 12,000 total acres of land by 2050, which would represent about 40% of the land within the township. The OASB also noted, “Given the expected build-out of Readington Township and New Jersey by 2050, it is critical that preservation opportunities be actively pursued whenever lands suitable for preservation, either for natural resource protection, recreation or farmland use, becomes available.”
And for the property’s most recent owner, Floyd Saums, the preservation allows him to honor his family’s agricultural legacy, which stretches back several generations.
“When you know your ancestors have sweated here for decades of their lives, it’s nice to know that this is not going to be destroyed,” Saums said. “I know my parents and grandparents would appreciate that this will remain open as farmland and not become a housing development.”
The Saums Farm property is being auctioned off, Huelsebusch noted.
The open space portion now features a parking area off Rockafellow Mills Road, where visitors can find a trail map. There are two marked, looping trails: a small one that rims an open field, and a longer one that takes hikers through woodlands and skirts the state wildlife management area. Visitors can traverse the property, getting completely immersed in nature amidst the burbling tributaries and twittering of birds, including the state-endangered Northern Harrier and the state-threatened Savannah Sparrow.
Other partners in the Saums Farm preservation are New Jersey Green Acres, the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee and Hunterdon County.
“Hunterdon Land Trust has consistently demonstrated throughout its history a firm commitment to protecting farmland, open space and waterways, and with this preservation, we managed to do all three with one property,” said Katharine Samberg-Lawrence, HLT’s executive director. “We are so incredibly grateful to our wonderful partners for making this preservation a success.”