Our Commitment


Vision

Our farms, soil, water, and roots are protected for all.

Mission

Vigorously accelerate the permanent protection and stewardship of farmland.

Our Story

Lancaster Farmland Trust was established in 1988.

In 1980, the Lancaster County Commissioners appointed a nine-member Agricultural Preservation Board to preserve Lancaster County farmland. As guidelines and policies were developed, it became clear that the program was not effectively reaching Plain Sect farmers. Amish and Mennonite farmers were, and largely still are, reluctant to become involved with government programs.

Amos Funk is known as Lancaster County’s “father of farmland preservation” and was the president of the newly created Agriculture Preserve Board. He had several conversations with fellow preservation supporter, Marilyn Ware. Amos and Marilyn were both aware of the need for a private organization to help Plain Sect farmers preserve their land. The formation of a new organization called the Friends of Agricultural Land Preservation fulfilled this need. They held their first meeting on November 13, 1985. Amos and Marilyn created the organization to be an important partner to the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board. In August 1988, the organization was renamed Lancaster Farmland Trust.

Since then, Lancaster Farmland Trust has developed into a robust and dynamic organization with more than 573 easements under our belt consisting of more than 35,000 acres. In the years after our founding, national recognition surrounded Lancaster Farmland Trust for the success of our efforts. Lancaster Farmland Trust is a leader in private farmland preservation.

We are a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of preserving agriculture and stewarding the land. Our volunteer Board of Trustees understands the cultural and economic importance of protecting working lands. Our funding comes through donations from private individuals and businesses, and grants from various private and public organizations and foundations.

Now

In 2023 we developed a bold and ambitious strategic plan for LFT focused on expanding our base of support and partnerships to accelerate our impact for the benefit of all Lancastrians. Each of us has a vital role to play and it will take all of us to achieve lasting progress. We hope you’ll join us, click here to learn more and read the full plan. 


5,650

farm-families provide fresh, local food for lancaster residents and americans across the united states



Lancaster Farmland Trust is the top farmland preservation organization in the state, and the nation.

Staff & Board


Jeffery Swinehart

President and CEO

Jeff Swinehart is the President and CEO of Lancaster Farmland Trust beginning in 2022. Prior to this role, he served as the organization’s Chief Operating Officer for 3 years and Deputy Director for 13 years. With 24 years of land trust experience, Jeff is responsible for carrying out the strategic plans and policies of the Board of Trustees. He provides direction and leadership toward the achievement of the organization’s vision, mission, and values as established by the Board of Trustees. During his tenure, Jeff and his team have built Lancaster Farmland Trust’s easement portfolio to more than 500 easements and 30,000 acres – the largest easement portfolio in Pennsylvania. Jeff is a member of the WeConservePA Board and Policy Committee, serves as Chairman of the Manheim Township Planning Commission, and is Chair of the Lancaster Clean Water Partners. In 2022, Jeff began serving his second three-year term as the Mid-Atlantic representative for Terrafirma RRG, LLC. Jeff graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Pennsylvania State University and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography, plus minors in Geology and Regional Planning from Mansfield University. As a lifelong resident of Lancaster County, Jeff spent his childhood in the southern end of the county enjoying the rural way of life and working on a family-owned dairy farm. He currently resides in Manheim Township with his wife and two children. Jeff enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening, spending time in “Flossy” the family camper, being active in his son’s Scouts BSA Troop, and visiting family in northern Pennsylvania and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Jeb Musser

VP of Land Protection

Jeb Musser is the VP of Land Protection at Lancaster Farmland Trust beginning in 2019. Prior to this role he served in nearly every role in the organization’s Land Protection Department over eight years. Jeb is responsible for carrying out the programmatic activities of the Trust, including farmland preservation, implementation of best management practices on farms, fee for service activities, and grant management. He provides direction to the Land Protection staff, interns, and volunteers. Jeb is a commissioner on the Lancaster County Planning Commission and is a member of the Lancaster Clean Water Partners Watershed and Data Action Teams. Jeb graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography with focus in Environmental Studies, plus a minor in Government and Political Studies from Millersville University. He also has a professional certificate in Geographic Information Systems from Pennsylvania State University and a certificate in Drones for Land Trust Monitoring from Duke University. Jeb is originally from Lebanon County, where he spent his teenage years helping out on a hog farm in South Londonderry Township. He moved to Lancaster County to attend Millersville University and has stayed in the area since. Jeb currently resides in Elizabethtown with his wife, son, and three pets. Jeb enjoys gardening, camping, fishing, and tinkering.

Amy Baumann

VP of Strategic Priorities

Amy Baumann is the VP of Strategic Priorities. Prior to this, she held the Director of Grants and Gifts and Development Coordinator positions since joining LFT in 2018. Amy is responsible for the coordination and implementation of LFT’s development and communication strategies. Alongside her talented coworkers, Amy works to connect the community with LFT’s mission and sustain the organization through diverse funding sources and approaches. Before moving to Lancaster with her family, Amy worked at several non-profit organizations in the Philadelphia area. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University. She currently resides in Manheim Township with her husband and three children. Amy enjoys large family gatherings, Barnegat Light, and biking the country roads of Lancaster County. When she is not watching Arsenal, she is spending an unhealthy amount of time dedicated to her beloved 76ers, with the (so far futile) hope of seeing them raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy with her own eyes.

Jamie Hall

VP of Development

Jamie Hall serves as the Vice President of Development, where she plays a pivotal role in the organization's growth and sustainability. Born and raised in Lancaster County, Jamie brings a deep-rooted connection to the mission of preserving our cherished farmlands. With experience in the nonprofit sector, Jamie previously served as a Director of Development and in roles in marketing and communications. Jamie is responsible for cultivating meaningful relationships with supporters and identifying new funding opportunities to further Lancaster Farmland Trust's vital work. Jamie is an active member of the community, frequently attending local events. You'll often find her with a large coffee in hand, ready to explore Lancaster County's newest restaurants and attractions. In her free time, she enjoys long walks with her faithful companion, her golden retriever, Prátaí.

Mikaela Bender-Rice

Communication Manager

As Communication Manager, Mikaela leads LFT's internal and external communication. She is responsible for content creation, design, and promoting further engagement with the mission of Lancaster Farmland Trust. Mikaela has spent her career in multiple NGOs, creating content and spaces that propel understanding, connection, and engagement. She loves Lancaster County and is passionate about protecting the land that makes Lancaster what it is. Mikaela earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Lancaster Bible College and a Certificate in Typography Design from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. She is currently on the Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning Board and the Marketing and Development Committee Chair. Mikaela enjoys writing, cooking, pottery, and spending time discovering new places with friends and family. A long-time Lancaster County resident, Mikaela spent many years in Manheim Township and now resides in Lancaster City with her husband, Jesse, and their cat, Shamps.

Chandra Crosson

Communication Associate

As Communication Associate, Chandra utilizes LFT’s various social media platforms to increase engagement and awareness in the community. She works closely with the communication department to create and send email newsletters, blogs, and website design and content. She also assists Land Protection staff in farm photography. Chandra’s degree is in Broadcasting and Digital Multimedia at Susquehanna University, where she was the social media manager and editor of her sorority and screenwriter of BAMCAT Productions. Previously, Chandra has worked as an art gallery assistant, video productions assistant, podcast editor, and photographer - strengthening her creativity and people skills. Outside of work, Chandra likes to read, play video games, and cuddle with her Guinea pigs, Willie and Joey. She has lived in Pennsylvania her whole life and is eager to share her love for Pennsylvania farmlands with others.

Aidan Das

Land Protection & GIS Specialist

Aidan is responsible for easement acquisition projects, easement stewardship, compiling baseline documentation for newly preserved farms, and managing LFT’s Geographic Information System. She also utilizes her Remote Pilot license by flying the organization's drone. Aidan graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Science and a GIS Certificate. Her previous experience includes interning for a land trust in Southwest Ohio where she monitored agricultural land under easement and discovered her passion for land preservation. Aidan enjoys kayaking, hiking, traveling, yoga, and exploring Lancaster County in her free time.

Jonathan Denlinger

Conservation Easement Monitoring Assistant

Jonathan (Jon) joined Lancaster Farmland Trust in April 2022. As a member of the Land Protection Department at LFT, he is responsible for engaging with stakeholders, conducting conservation easement monitoring visits, and maintaining LFT’s database of preserved farms. Jon completed his Interdisciplinary undergraduate degree (Biology, Environmental Studies, and Sociology/Anthropology) from Goshen College, Goshen, IN, and graduated with a Master’s of Science from The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, in aquatic ecology, specifically focusing on predator/prey interactions in Ohio reservoirs. Following graduation, Jon worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife at the Inland Fisheries Research Unit, where he developed and coordinated state-wide sportfish research and management. Jon lives with his wife and three children on a multi-generational family farm in East Lampeter Township. They maintain a menagerie of animals: sheep, goats, grass-fed angus, free-range chickens, a few horses, several cats, and a dog, Jack. When not working for LFT, he can most often be found working on their farm or shuttling their children to their various activities. In his spare time, Jon enjoys riding bike on the rolling hills of Lancaster County.

Stephanie Denton

Community Engagement Manager

Stephanie leads LFT's efforts to engage more folks with our mission through outreach programs. She is responsible for building relationships and strategic partnerships that promote LFT's work in the community, as well as managing public events and volunteers. Prior to joining the team, Stephanie worked at non-profits in York, Philadelphia (go Birds!), and Bethlehem where she designed and oversaw development and outreach plans to support public spaces, programs and services, and stewardship opportunities. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College and a Master's Degree in Environmental Policy from Lehigh University. She also earned a graduate certificate in Urban Environmental Policy and Planning with a concentration in urban agriculture and food justice. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys gardening, weekend getaways, and discovering new places to eat with her husband, Andrew. She and Andrew currently reside in Lancaster City with their two cats, Cat and Scott, and their Corgi, Cornbread.

Jonathan Dunkle

Development Associate

Jonathan Dunkle is a former statistician and library director who now puts his information and data skills to use as Development Associate. Proud father to two grown sons, when he is not working, he lives with his wife and two cats in a log cabin where he spends an inordinate amount of time engaged in researching, writing about, and preparing presentations on the history of baseball.

Phil Dunn

Agricultural Outreach Specialist

As Agricultural Outreach Specialist, Phil serves as a liaison to farmers - especially those within the Plain Sect community - municipal officials, other conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, and the private agricultural sector. Phil grew up on a beef and crop farm in Huntingdon County that remains in his family to this day. After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College, he spent 35 years working for the Senate of Pennsylvania, retiring in 2019 as Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Whip. During his time in the Senate, Phil worked extensively with state programs involving agriculture and environmental protection. Phil has served on the West Donegal Township Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission. He is a Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward and has a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Riparian Buffer Training Certificate. Phil is on the Board of Directors of the Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance and a member of the Juniata Watershed Alliance. Phil, and his wife Anita, live outside of Mount Joy.

Dianna Hendrick

Financial Assistant

As Financial Assistant, Dianna is responsible for financial duties that contribute to the efficient operation of the organization. She oversees financial records, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, grant expenses and Human Resource duties. She is a native Pennsylvanian and worked in banking for 22 years and the non-profit community for 14 years. Dianna has a deep appreciation of how non-profits continually strive to improve the quality of life and work together with other organizations to make this happen. Family is a very important part of her life and she enjoys spending time with her husband Mike and her two boys. On weekends, you can find Dianna enjoying the outdoors by kayaking, geocaching, or bike riding with her rescue dog, Timber.

Gordon Hoover

Agricultural Outreach Coordinator

As Ag Outreach Coordinator, Gordon is responsible for establishing relationships with a variety of stakeholders – including farmers, municipal officials, and state and federal officials – to advance LFT’s mission of environmental stewardship and water quality improvements in Lancaster County. Before Lancaster Farmland Trust, Gordon was the Conservation Coordinator for Salisbury Township and has worked for Land O’Lakes as their Director of Dairy Member Relations. Gordon and his wife Carole also operate Welsh-Vista Farms in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County. The former dairy farm is now home to 200 acres of forage crops and a small herd of heifers. Gordon is proud of his long his tory of good soil-health practices, including over 60 years of cover cropping and more than 25 years of 100% no-till planting. Gordon has served on many agriculture and dairy industry boards, including Land O’Lakes Corporate Board, National Milk Producer Federation Board, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Promotion Board, PA Center for Dairy Excellence Board, and Lancaster County Farm Bureau. Currently, Gordon serves as Supervisor for Salisbury Township, Lancaster Clean Water Partners steering committee, and is a church school teacher.

Maddie Klein

Conservation Program Specialist

As Conservation Program Specialist, Maddie is responsible for connecting the dots between farm outreach visits and farm BMP project implementation. She helps to align farm conservation projects to funding sources, and acts as project manager for Lancaster Farmland Trust’s active grant funded farm implementation projects, among other related tasks. Her previous work involved 6 years at a county conservation district, learning the ins and outs of on-farm conservation. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management, and a certificate in Watersheds and Water Resources. She also maintains an active PA Act 38 Nutrient Management Certification. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, hiking, horseback riding, exploring small towns and back roads, painting and other crafts, tending her flowers, and spoiling her two guinea pigs, Rosemary and Basil.

Laura Komara

Land Protection Assistant

Laura assists in the Land Protection Department by going out on annual monitoring visits, completing baseline documentation for newly preserved farms, and general maintaining of the Trust’s database of preserved farms. She is a graduate of Temple University with a degree in Environmental Studies and a GIS certificate. Previously, Laura had an internship working on the Delaware Nature Society’s farm preserve, where she learned firsthand how important land preservation is to provide for future generations. Outside of work, Laura spends as much time as she can outside hiking, running and gardening; traveling; and cooking. She is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County and currently lives in southern Lancaster with her cat, Milo.

Kristin Raab

Office Administrator & Executive Assistant

Kristin works to make sure the day to day operations at the LFT office run smoothly, and supports every area from Land Protection, to Fundraising and all of the details in between. She first began working with Lancaster Farmland Trust when she moved to the area in 2003. Kristin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language Arts and Communications from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Manheim Township with her husband, their two children and the family dog and cat. Outside of work you can find her cheering on the Manheim Township Marching Band and Performing Arts clubs, she currently serves as the Vice President of the Manheim Township Marching Band Boosters. When time allows, she loves returning to her Adirondack roots and exploring the lakes and trails of Upstate New York.

Lancaster Farmland Trust’s diverse, volunteer Board of Trustees is the organization’s governing entity. It is responsible for managing its business and affairs.

Board of Trustees

Jeff Kirk,  Chair

Lisa Horn,  Vice-Chair

Emily Bell,  Secretary

Ken Lewis,  Treasurer

Melissa Falk
Julie Bard-Ziegler
Sam Clement
Maureen Maley
Kendra Gottshall
Nate Hoover
Erin Letavic
Ryan Martin
Darin Miller
Larry Shirk
Bob Shoemaker
Abner Stoltzfus
Christ Taylor
Shane Zimmerman

Honorary Trustees

H. Eugene Garber

Kenneth H. Messner

Noah W. Wenger

Phyllis C. Whitesell

general counsel

Brubaker, Connaughton, Goss & Lucarelli

I think it was in 1988 that I saw Lancaster Farmland Trust in the newspaper. I called [the] number to find to what it was all about; right away I was interested in preserving my farm. I wanted my place preserved before I sold [it]. Looking back, I was so glad I did. Now it will always stay like this.

I was never sorry; I would do it again 100 times.

– Excerpt from a letter written by John Stoltzfus, owner of a preserved farm

I think it was in 1988 that I saw Lancaster Farmland Trust in the newspaper. I called [the] number to find to what it was all about; right away I was interested in preserving my farm. I wanted my place preserved before I sold [it]. Looking back, I was so glad I did. Now it will always stay like this.

I was never sorry; I would do it again 100 times.

– Excerpt from a letter written by John Stoltzfus, owner of a preserved farm

Accreditation & Awards


The Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission has granted national accreditation to Lancaster Farmland Trust. The Commission is an independent, non-profit program that awards accreditation status to land trusts. They build and recognize strong land trusts, foster public confidence in land conservation, and help ensure the long-term protection of land. Accredited land trusts share commonalities. Accreditation status confirms a land trust meets the highest national standards for excellence and conservation permanence.

Lancaster Farmland Trust was one of the first land trusts in the country to achieve this national mark of distinction.

Strong ethical practices, a commitment to the long-term stewardship of land, and conservation easements in the public interest unite accredited organizations. Every five years, land trusts must apply for accreditation renewal.

Consulting & Municipal Services


Municipal Partnerships

As municipalities plan for future growth, it is important to manage development with strategies to protect natural resources, including valuable agricultural lands.

Lancaster Farmland Trust works with many municipal officials and the local communities to identify funding options and policies to preserve farmland in perpetuity.

We have developed the organizational capacity to assist Lancaster municipalities with a variety of their planning decisions. Innovative planning techniques such as transferable development rights (TDRs), effective agricultural zoning, and ordinances protecting the right to farm are well tested and have yielded positive results in many Lancaster County municipalities.

A relatively new dynamic for municipalities is enhanced regulatory enforcement pertaining to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) systems, which are defined by population density per data issued by the U.S. Census Bureau. For Lancaster County, it is common that vast areas of agricultural land are incorporated into a municipality’s regulated MS4 area. We believe there are tremendous opportunities to “connect” the green infrastructure (i.e. conservation practices) on farms to the regulatory needs of local municipalities, which are significantly more cost-effective than gray infrastructure, while simultaneously benefiting the economic and environmental performance of farms. To-date, Lancaster Farmland Trust has completed assessments of more than 1,100 farms in nine municipalities to understand the needs and opportunities of the agricultural community and how those opportunities can assist local municipalities in their MS4 compliance. Lancaster Farmland Trust has also participated in creating The Lancaster County TDR Practitioner’s Handbook. With a solid understanding of the nuts and bolts behind TDR programs, Trust staff can introduce the TDR handbook to municipal employees and officials and will support the development of this preservation and growth management tool.

Lancaster Farmland Trust will also offer support to integrate the following strategies to protect Lancaster’s precious agricultural lands:

  • Agricultural Security Areas
  • Effective agricultural zoning ordinances
  • Creative funding mechanisms
  • Identifying high priority farms for preservation
  • Education and outreach of Smart Growth strategies

For more information on working with Lancaster Farmland Trust, please contact us at 717-687-8484 or by email:

contact us

FAQ


What does “preserving a farm” mean?

When we say “preserving a farm,” we mean the farmer has placed a conservation easement on the farm. The landowner sells or donates their rights to develop the land at any time in the future. This keeps the land available for agricultural use and prevents development forever. The farmer still owns and farms the property as a private landowner. Lancaster Farmland Trust will ensure the easement continues to restrict development.

How does the community benefit from farmland preservation?

Protecting farmland preserves our community’s way of life, provides bountiful fresh, local foods, and the opportunity to improve our local and regional water supply through on-farm conservation practices.

What does a conservation easement say?

We work with farmers to write easements so they do not restrict the farmers’ daily lives or plans for future agricultural pursuits. The language of the Lancaster Farmland Trust’s standard easement allows additional homes for the farmer’s family members who may come to live or work on the farm and allows farmers to construct additional farm buildings such as a workshop or agricultural on-farm business.

Do Plain Sect farmers preserve their farms?

Yes. Nearly 80% of our preserved farm owners are Plain Sect Amish or Mennonite farmers.

Does preserving a farm reduce its value?

When a farmer places a conservation easement on the farm, they are usually lowering the value of the property to some extent. That said, it is common in Lancaster County for preserved farms to sell at values comparable to unpreserved farms. Farmers want and need land to farm and, because that’s what the easement allows, farmers are willing to pay top dollar for high-quality land.

Can a farmer have a business on a preserved farm?

Yes, our farmers are permitted to have businesses on their farms. The nature and size of their on-farm business are limited and specific to the easement on their farm.

How long does an easement last?

Our easements are written and upheld forever. The easement is attached to the Property Title and transfers from owner to owner.

Does a preserved farm still pay property taxes?

Yes, preserved farm owners still pay property taxes. Preserved farm owners are eligible for an income tax deduction for the donated portion of their development rights. Tax deductions vary case to case and are used at the discretion of the landowner and their tax preparer.

Where does your funding come from?

Lancaster Farmland Trust is funded mostly by generous donations from private individuals, businesses, and foundations. Protecting Lancaster County’s beautiful, productive farmland requires a considerable amount of resources. Fortunately, residents and visitors recognize the value in protecting our land – and all of the benefits it provides – and have made financial commitments in support of our work. A small portion of our funds are sourced from government agencies, but the majority of the funds we raise are private.

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