Chester County Agricultural Conservation Easement Challenge Grant Program


Recognizing the pressures of development in Chester County, the Board of Commissioners created a program to complement the existing Commonwealth Program and other components of the Chester County Open Space Program. After two annual rounds specific to northern Chester County, the Program has been enhanced to encompass the entire County. Funding for this program provides an opportunity for partnership between the County and local entities such as townships and other public and private sources. To fund this program, the County Commissioners committed $5 million in 2001, $3.4 million in 2003, $3.5 million in 2004, $4.0 million in 2005, $1.8 million in 2006, $1.0 million in 2007, and $2.7 million in 2008 in a dollar-to-dollar match program with local sources.


The purpose of this program is to preserve agricultural land in Chester County in accordance with the strategy developed by the Board of County Commissioners. Lands in Chester County that are designated "Rural" or "Natural" landscapes as according to the Landscapes County comprehensive plan and located in locally adopted Agricultural Security Areas will be targeted for agricultural conservation easement acquisition. These areas contain prime agricultural soils, are generally designated for agriculture in local comprehensive plans and are concentrations of actively farmed land in Chester County.

Eligibility criteria

The following basic criteria must be met of each application.

  1. Located in a municipality or municipalities whose Board of Supervisors has committed, in writing, to participate by providing matching funds for successful applications for development right acquisition. Or the above may be waived if applicant indicates 50% donation on their application, or if other match-funding source is committed in writing.
  2. Enrolled in an adopted municipal Agricultural Security Area(s).
  3. Situated in areas designated as a "Rural" or "Natural" landscape in the Chester County comprehensive policy plan, Landscapes. In cases where an applicant straddles the boundary between a "Rural" and/or a "Natural" landscape and a "Suburban" or "Urban" landscape, farm tract applied must have at least 50 percent in the "Rural" and/or "Natural."
  4. Contain a minimum parcel size of 25 acres if not contiguous to an existing protected parcel; or a minimum of 10 acres if contiguous to another protected parcel.
  5. Contain at least 50% cropland, pasture or grazing land.

Funding requirements

Applications for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements may be considered only when there is a written commitment to provide fifty (50) percent of the acquisition costs, considered to be the local match. There is a funding limit of $12,000 per acre on each project. The fifty (50) percent local match to meet the “challenge” of the Program may be achieved in one of the following ways:

  1. A township, or townships if farm tract overlaps municipal lines, committing to providing the match.
  2. A private or private non-profit entity, including applicant, committing to provide the match.
  3. A commitment from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  4. A combination of any of the above-mentioned options to provide the match.

The total acquisition cost shall include easement purchase price accepted by farm owner and the incidental costs of the acquisition, such as appraisal, survey, title, legal, and other appropriate fees.

As of April 2008, the Chester County ALPB has preserved 34 farms for a total of 2,591 acres through the Challenge Grant Program.


Information on applying to sell an agricultural conservation easement can be obtained by contacting the office via phone, email, regular mail, or by visiting. The deadline for application is August 1st of each year.

Contact Chester County Agricultural Conservation Easement Challenge Grant Program

Contact Chester County Agricultural Conservation Easement Challenge Grant Program

Kim Gordon
601 Westtown Road
Suite 270, P.O. Box 2747
West Chester, Pennsylvania  19380
Phone: 610-344-6285


Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Pennsylvania