By Christine Todd Whitman
January 5, 2011
New Jersey is known as the Garden State for good reason, thanks in large part to the land our farmers steward and preserve. While I fully understand the need to periodically update the definition of a working farm, it is important to note that many good peaches, apples, and other produce come from farms that don’t cover hundreds of acres. In your recent editorial (“Fake farmers need not apply,”) about farmland preservation and “fake” farmers, you included my name in a way that seemed more like a political statement than a factual criticism of our farm.
As I’m sure you remember, during my first campaign for governor, then-governor Jim Florio questioned the propriety of our farm. The facts, however, soon put that to rest. My husband and I lived then, and still do, on 234 acres that are farmed both by ourselves and a tenant farmer. We raise pigs, chickens and cattle for our own use and the fields that are in cultivation produce mulch hay, the profit from which far exceeds $500. While the bulk of the farm is in the farmland preservation program and can never be developed, the house and its envelope are subject to full property tax assessment, which we pay.
Open space, parks and farmland are what keeps the most densely populated state in the nation green and attractive. That is why voters continuously vote to preserve open space in a variety of ways. To have a discussion of what is appropriate is always important, but it should be done in a factual way and should refrain from random claims to get attention.
Christine Todd Whitman
The writer is a former governor of New Jersey.