WRIGHTSTOWN >> Retiring County Commissioner Charles H. Martin was honored August 14 at the annual Middletown Grange Fair for his many years of support for farm preservation, agricultural and 4-H programs, and the Grange Fair itself.
Commissioner Martin, the longest-tenured county commissioner in Bucks County history, is stepping down in January after almost 25 years in office. This week marked his final official commissioners’ meeting at the Grange Fair, a five-day event for which he has a special fondness.
Members of Bucks County 4-H and the Penn State Extension, who normally perform the ceremonial flag-raising that kicks off the fair, surprised Martin by calling on him to hoist the American, Pennsylvania and 4-H flags this year. A group of young 4-H’ers then raised a cheer, shouting in unison, “We love you, Charley Martin!”
At the subsequent commissioners’ meeting, several speakers paid homage to Martin’s support for farmland preservation and agricultural endeavors since taking office in 1995. During that time, more than 200 farms and 16,000 acres of prime Bucks County farmland have been preserved.
Since the Agricultural Land Preservation Program was adopted in 1989, a total of 224 farms and 17,711 acres have been preserved. The county hopes to reach 18,000 acres of preserved farmland by the end of 2019.
Lynn Bush, the county’s former chief clerk and executive director of the planning commission, recalled that one of Martin’ first acts as a commissioner was to help form an open space task force.
“He reads everything and he forgets nothing,” Bush said. She credited much of the county’s open-space preservation success to Martin’s careful scrutiny, tough questioning, fiscal discipline, institutional memory and vast knowledge of the county’s unique character.
“Would there have been an open space program without Charley Martin? Maybe,” Bush said. “But would there have been a successful, cost-effective program that reflected the unique culture of Bucks County, the unique countryside of Bucks County, without Charley Martin’s commitment to the cause, his guidance and his watchful eye? Not a chance.”
“Can I get a copy of that for my obituary when the time comes?” Martin joked in response.
David DelBianco, a board member of the Bucks County Penn State Extension, noted that the Extension “has been around for 56 years. The Grange has been around for 71. Commissioner Martin has been in that environment for 25.
“You are a champion of all things green and growing, Commissioner Martin,” DelBianco said. “Congratulations on your long tenure and your retirement. The agricultural community will miss you and the mark you have left on Bucks County.”
Conservation District Award
In other county business at the Grange Fair meeting, Chairman Loughery, who also serves on the Bucks County Conservation District Board, presented a letter of commendation recognizing Todd Bolton and Ryan Buckwalter of Bolton’s Turkey Farm in Bedminster as the winner of this year’s Fred Groshens Farmer of Year Award.
Reading from the letter, Loughery praised the family for its "excellent stewardship and operation” of the multi-generation, family-owned poultry, beef and vegetable farm.
Bolton’s Turkey Farm was established in 1933 as a chicken and beef farm. In the mid-1980s the Boltons added a farm stand, which grew into a farm store in 1990. Bolton’s is now farmed by multi-generational farmers.
Todd Bolton is a third-generation farmer of the Bolton family, while Ryan Buckwalter worked on the farm as a teenager and grew to love both farming and the farmer’s daughter, Kelby Bolton. Ryan continued to work on the production end of the farm while earning his Agricultural Business degree from Delaware Valley University.
Today, Bolton’s Turkey Farm has grown to a level of raising and processing 10,000 turkeys, 12,000 broilers and 45 beef cows per year.
Renovations to the farm store were made in 2015. The farm also has recently revamped its manure management practices. Bolton’s developed a comprehensive nutrient management plan, detailing manure application rates based on soil and manure analyses, as well as delineating manure application setbacks from wells and streams for all of its farmed ground.
Bolton’s has installed a roofed manure storage, large enough to store six month’s worth of manure. The six-month storage allows Bolton’s to spread manure when environmental conditions are ideal, avoiding manure application in winter. The roof on the manure storage prevents rainwater from comingling with the manure and prevents any manure runoff concerns.
Additionally, Bolton’s has made improvements in its animal concentration area for the beef herd. Now when the pastures are not fit for grazing due to winter, drought or heavy rains, the animals are kept on a roofed concrete lot. Animal access lanes were reconstructed with stone and cross pipes to provide stable access to pastures. These improvements protect water quality by reducing manure runoff and by allowing the pastures to maintain a yearlong, grass cover.
Bolton’s Turkey Farm also has a riparian corridor running throughout the farm, protecting a stream that drains through a series of ponds. As part of the recent farm improvements, Bolton’s fenced out the 3.4-acre riparian area from the cattle herd.
“We join all Bucks Countians in saluting your efforts to keep the land productive and the adjacent waterways clean,” said Loughery. “We wish you continued health and happiness in the performance of conservation measures that serve and improve the local community. We also look excitedly to the future with you as many more generations to come continue to improve on your irrigation ideas and soil protections.”
Todd Bolton and Ryan Buckwalter were presented with an aerial photograph of their farm.
The fair theme of the meeting continued with the crowning of Brynn Barnhart, a student at Palisades High School, as the 2019 Grange Fair Queen.
Jessica Raab of Middletown Township Sarah Liebel, the 2018 Grange Fair Queen, crowned Barnhart with a tiara that was custom designed by wedding specialist Andrea Petrille to resemble a vintage antique corn motif.
The commissioners also announced the winners of the county’s first youth awards for citizenship, academic and agricultural achievement.
The winners are Anushka Gattu, the Academic Achievement Award;
Sydney Ochoco, the Agricultural Award for Horticulture; The Figueroa Family, the Agricultural Award for Animal Husbandry (Junior Division); Melissa Rosson, the Agricultural Award for Animal Husbandry (Senior Division); Adelyne Hazelrigg, the Citizenship Award (Junior Division); and Robert Wildman, the Citizenship Award (Senior Division).
Following the ceremonial portion of the meeting, the board continued its agricultural theme by adding to the county’s growing list of preserved farms.
The commissioners approved two agricultural conservation easements totaling $838,740 including:
- A 77.36 acre agricultural conservation easement on the Randy Labs, Richard Labs Jr. and Patti Lea Keller Farm on Kellers Church Road in Bedminster Township. The crop farm yields 30 acres of corn, 16 acres in soybeans and 20 acres of hay. The County will pay $464,160 plus settlement charges and adjustments for the easement.
- A 62.43 acre agricultural easement on the Randy R. Labs Farm at 1155 Edge Hill Road in Bedminster. The crop farm yields 16 acres of hay and 28 acres of soybeans. The County will pay $374,580 plus settlement charges and adjustments for the easement.
With the preservation of the two farms, the county has now saved 224 farms and has preserved more than 17,700 acres.
In other action, the commissioners:
- Put out to bid for the reconstruction of Bridge No. 21 on Rickert Road over Morris Run in Hilltown Township.
- Approved contract increases to support senior center services from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 for the Benjamin H. Wilson Senior Center in Warminster ($4,400), Bensalem Senior Citizens Association ($4,400), Bristol Township Senior Citizens Center ($2,200), Council Rock Senior Citizens Association in Richboro ($7,900), Falls Township Senior Citizens, Inc. in Fairless Hills ($18,900), Morrisville Senior Servicenter ($7,500) and the Bristol Borough Area Active Adult Center ($61,687).
- Approved contract increases and extension to support senior center services from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 to the Bucks County Association for Retired and Senior Citizens in Trevose ($204,288) and the Morrisville Senior Servicenter ($55,283).
- Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Northampton County and Delaware Canal 21 to apply for state grants and conduct a feasibility study of the Delaware Canal.
- Approved a contract for a State Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) between the County and the State for the Doylestown Hospital Center for Heart and Vascular Care.
- Approved a cooperation agreement for the Doylestown Hospital Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) project.
- Approved a contract increase and extension to Approve contract increase and extension with National Medical Services, Inc. d/b/a NMS Labs, Horsham, to operate the Bucks County Forensic Crime Lab in Warminster at a cost of $960,064 from Sept. 1, 2019 to August 31, 2020.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, September 4 at the visitors center in Washington Crossing. For a complete audio account of the August 14 business meeting, visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.