The “Agricultural district” (AG district) is intended to provide for continued farming activities, conserve agricultural land and reaffirm agricultural uses, activities and operations within the agricultural zoned areas. It is also to maintain the rural character of this land and promote farming and agricultural uses. § 267-53 of the Harford County Zoning Code
Although the intent is to preserve land for agricultural use, some non-farming activities are permitted. For example, facilities for private parties and receptions are permitted in AG districts without farming on the property (example: Regent at Stone House in Churchville). Other non-agricultural uses that may be allowed in AG district as Special Exceptions include racetracks, school bus storage, RV parks and various industries.
Harford County farmland
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are more than 65,000 acres of farmland in Harford County. Of these, 50,000 acres are listed under a preservation easement.
Despite this success, more than 15,000 acres of farmland in Harford County remain unprotected. Between 2007 and 2012, Harford County lost 112 farms, the second biggest loss of working farms in the state.
Agricultural Preservation and Land Easements
Agricultural easements are designed to protect agriculture and woodlands from subdivision and development.
Farms and woodlands:
- Provide important habitat for native plants and animals;
- Allow the infiltration of rainwater to recharge groundwater aquifers;
- Protect downstream properties from erosion damage;
- Reduce uncontrolled run-off and pollution from entering nearby streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
By protecting our land, we also ensure that the rural landscape and agricultural economies of Harford County can be enjoyed by future generations.
Easements in Harford County, MD
A landowner has many options when deciding to preserve their land through an easement. In most cases, the landowner gives up their option of subdividing or developing their property, but still retains ownership of the land. The organization that administers the easement then agrees to watch over the property and make sure the land is maintained (not developed) in accordance with the agreement.
Agricultural easements available to Harford County residents:
- American Farmland Trust
- Deer Creek Conservancy
- Harford Agricultural Land Preservation Program
- Harford Land Trust
- Manor Conservancy
- Maryland Environmental Trust
Priority Preservation Area
In 2008, Harford County identified the lower Deer Creek watershed as a Priority Preservation Area– prime agricultural and woodlands that should be the focus of land conservation efforts.
In subsequent years, larger sections of the Deer Creek watershed were added, as well as land northward to the Susquehanna River and the Manor Rural Legacy area in northwestern Harford County.
The Priority Preservation Area is primarily zoned agricultural. Of this, 47% (45,224 acres out of 96,373 acres) has been preserved. In accordance with The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly in the spring of 2012, at least 80% of the remaining undeveloped land (an additional 14,589 acres) in the Priority Preservation Area must be preserved.
A major goal of the PPA is also to link relatively large tracts of undeveloped land and contiguous properties through easements or other conservation measures such as parks.