Keeping it rural

One thing you notice right away if you visit Lancaster County for the first time–especially when comparing it to just about any other Amish settlement–is how congested it is.


There are a lot of people in what is supposedly a ‘rural’ county–nearly half-a-million.  Some time ago, locals became concerned with what would happen if land pressures eventually caused the ‘garden spot of America’ to end up just like any other patch of suburbia.

A combination of government and private groups today work to preserve the rural character of the county.

One way is by buying, then retiring, development rights to farmland.  This assures that farms, some of which were acquired directly from William Penn, will not be transformed into cookie-cutter developments, a process evident in many parts of the county already.

Thanks to David Carrig for the link to a Philadelphia Inquirer article on how Lancaster and Chester County Amish community have dealt with the issue of farm preservation (no longer online).

Despite some initial reluctance to ‘getting something for nothing’, a lot more Amish have signed up and transferred development rights to the trust.  As it says in the article, some are starting to see it as not only preserving the land but also the Amish culture.

One thing’s for sure.  With rights to some farms selling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s not a bad time to be a landowner in Lancaster County.

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    1. We visited Lancaster County four years ago and I was amazed at how crowded (and commercial)the community seemed to be. Our OOMs are widely spaced and have moved north and west of the growing cities to get more farmland.

    2. Matthew

      Having relatives who live in the Lancaster area, it is amazing how much development is occuring there. Sadly, many of these “cookie cutter” homes are being built by those who still will be maintaining their jobs in either Philadelphia or Baltimore, which ironically grates so much against the Amish ideal of families staying and working close together.

      One wonders if there will even be an Amish population in Lancaster County in the next 25 or 50 years considering suburban sprawl and the relative high cost of land for farming or commercial ventures.

      Perhaps you could blog about some of the groups that have migrated out of Lancaster County for other areas.

    3. It will be interesting to see what happens over time.

      I might write something on Lancaster daughter settlements, that is an idea. There is a little bit I did write already about Parke County, Indiana, back in July.

    4. So much land near large cites is always gobbled up for more and more development. Why can’t we leave some of it farmland?

    5. Farmland close to city centers in Europe

      I bet that if we built more compact cities like those in Europe then there would be more farmland within relatively close proximity of city centers.

      But how many people really want to live in a tiny apartment? People would laugh at some of the places I’ve lived in Poland, but they have been considered fairly standard sized places for what you get over here. I guess we have different expectations in the US…and a lot more land per capita than your average European country…