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Penn Center

 

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program Celebrated in Beaufort County


The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) received special attention in Beaufort, SC, at a special ceremony at the Penn Center on November 8, 2003. The Penn Center is one of the nation's most historically significant African-American educational and cultural institutions. It was established early in the Civil War, before emancipation. The purpose was to educate the freed slaves on the sea islands around Port Royal Sound that had been occupied by the Union on November 7th, 1861. Since then, the Penn Center has worked on many community-based projects, such as bringing public water to the islands, helping farmers to buy and market co-operatives and advocating better housing and health care for low-income people.
The center received USDA funding to protect 195 forested acres from development. NRCS State Conservationist Walter W. Douglas spoke at the ceremony, which was attended by nearly 10,000 spectators. He explained the significance of the easement to the residents and officials attending the event. “This is a voluntary program that helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture by providing matching funds to places like the Penn Center with existing farmland,” he explained.
The Penn Center has agreed not to convert the 195 acres covered under the easement to non-agricultural uses. In addition, a conservation plan will be developed for the farm at the Penn Center that will protect soil and water resources. Most importantly, the easement is permanent, which means that the acreage will forever be protected.
What is so remarkable about the Penn Center is that the landscape is virtually unchanged since the island was occupied in 1861. In a time of rapid industrial growth and expansion, South Carolina’s farmland is quickly disappearing. The farm being protected here is also located in one of the most rapidly developing counties in the nation, due to nearby Hilton Head Island and Beaufort. Today, the Penn Center agricultural acreage is used for teaching modern methods of economical land use for local landowners in the areas of cropland, pastureland, and forest products.
During his presentation, Douglas thanked the partnership that helped make the project become a reality. “Because of the strong conservation ethic of the local Beaufort County Council, and the staff here at the Penn Center, prime farmland will be permanently protected for generations to come.”