Tabernacle puts the garden in Garden State

Stevens Farm added to county-wide farmland preservation program

By Anthony J. Mazziotti III

New Jersey’s moniker The Garden State was approved in 1954, but its roots run deeper than the surface. 

According to NJ.gov, Abraham Browning of Camden is officially credited with creating  the nickname at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition in 1876: “Our Garden State is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other.”

The title also can be traced to founding father Benjamin Franklin,  who said New Jersey is similar to a barrel being tapped at both ends.

Sixty-six years after the state adopted the nickname, Burlington County officials have  honored the literal definition of Garden State by adding six properties to the Farmland Preservation Program. One of them, the Stevens Farm off Medford Lakes Road, sits in Tabernacle.

In short, the program allows the county to purchase the development rights for the properties to ensure they remain in agriculture, but the farmers retain ownership of the land. The county approved five other properties, for a total of 346 acres; the total acreage of preserved land is 63,064.

“Burlington County has such a wonderful agricultural heritage, and our board is 100-percent committed to keeping farming a vibrant industry here for both our current and future generations,” said county board member Linda Hynes, the board’s liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation.

“Preserving farmland and open space is a win-win for everyone,” she added. “Not only does it keep agriculture viable in our state and maintain our county’s scenic landscapes, but it can also help protect the mission of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.”

For Tabernacle administrator Doug Cramer, the addition of a new farm to the program is personal.

“I own the farm next to them,” he said with a laugh. “It’s always good to see farm ground preserved. I worked as a neighbor with the Stevenses for a good many years; I’m glad to see they applied and have been approved for the program.”

With a town as rural as Tabernacle, it is no surprise there is a willingness to put its  farmland first.

“Township committee supports the farm preservation program and appreciates the county providing money to the Pinelands community so they can preserve as many farms as they do,” Cramer said.

According to the administrator,  Tabernacle is a part of the Pinelands – meaning there are no local contributions.

“We appreciate the county taking care of that and allowing them to become part of the program and supporting Tabernacle,” Cramer added. “I think the program speaks for itself. I encourage farmers to look at the program and see if it offers benefits to them.”

For more information, Cramer suggests contacting Brian Wilson, coordinator of the Burlington County Farmer Preservation Program at (856) 642-3850 or by email at farmland@co.burlington.nj.us.