Jeff Zehr, Seed Farm Board treasurer and director of Lehigh County's Farmland Preservation Program, said the opportunity to launch a farm incubator in the late-2000s presented a "creative use" for the land and an alternative to conventional farming that would still preserve the land for agriculture.
"The county a long time ago recognized the fact that we need to do something to protect the good and high-quality farmland that we have in Lehigh County and the Lehigh Valley," Zehr said.
"As we were preserving all this land, and spending a lot of money to preserve this land, we began to think about the need for land for the next generation and helping new farmers get onto the land."
The county's Farmland Preservation Program has preserved 251 farms comprising 20,761 acres of farmland since 1989.
However, as the farming population in Pennsylvania and across the nation continues to age and enters retirement, the need for new farmers is becoming paramount.
"It comes down to the fact that we need new farmers because we need to replace those who will be retiring soon and who are retiring now," Zehr
"I think there is a recognition that it's difficult to start farming.
Especially young people who want to get started, they don't have the capital to purchase a new farm and all the equipment that might be necessary, and we just want to help facilitate that and make it easier for [them] to start farming," he
"In general people are seeing that trying to build up a strong local food system is important ... for the economy and the health of the people in the Lehigh Valley," Zehr