Survey: Most support higher taxes to save farms

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Oak Grove Farms brings people in for all different reasons. Some buy local produce, others come for the delicious ice cream.

Ken Mark of Upper Allen Township comes on principle.

“I’ve always been someone who supports the local establishments that produce their own products,” Mark said.

His opinion isn’t just popular in the farm market. Of the 3,000 people who took Cumberland County’s comprehensive plan survey, 81 percent say they’d pay additional tax dollars to preserve more farmland.

“It’s hard,” said Brian Lebo, who owns Oak Grove Farms. “It’s not the easiest way to get rich for sure.”

Lebo says he relies on county tax dollars in a way.

“We pay less property taxes on our land if we agree to keep it in farmland,” Lebo said.

There are also farmland preservation programs that cost about $3,000 an acre. Of Cumberland County’s 155,000 acres of farmland, about 18,000 is preserved.

“I don’t blame the farmers for selling the land to developers,” said Lebo, though he’s not planning on doing that. “It’s become very difficult to make a living farming anymore.”

In no surprise, county residents who took the survey weighed in against more warehouse development.

“When I was coming initially as a student, everywhere you looked there was farmland along Route 15,” said Mark, who moved to the area in the 60’s. “Now, it’s nothing but housing.”

With the tax base increasing and farmland decreasing, that’s one of the things county leaders will think about as they prepare their comprehensive plan by the end of the summer.

The Planning Department will host an open house to discuss the comprehensive plan at 310 Allen Road in Carlisle on July 31 from noon to 8 p.m.

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