New Castle News

Closer Look

January 9, 2013

Conservancy seeks applications for organic site

NEW CASTLE — The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is seeking farmers interested in operating an organic facility in Plain Grove Township.

The land is located in the Plain Grove Fen Natural Area, property owned by the conservancy, which is seeking to lease as much as 100 acres for the purpose of using it for organic-certified agriculture.

The lease would begin around March 1. The deadline to apply is 3 p.m. Jan. 31.

The acres involved are sectioned into nine fields of varying size, which are suitable for fruit and vegetable production, medium-sized intensive grazing operations or integrated crop-livestock enterprises.

In addition to the land, two barns and their related utilities (water and power) also are available to lease. Qualified parties also may lease a two-story house and a garage.

The conservancy is encouraging farmers of certified-organic productions to submit proposals. However, individual farmer certification is not required, as long as all agricultural activities on the property follow organic guidelines.

The conservancy acquired the Plain Grove Fen Natural Area in 1987 in an effort to preserve a rare wetland type, a population of a rare plant and a mixed-oak forest. Taylor Run and mature cherry and sugar maple trees also mark the property.

From the early 1990s until last spring, the agricultural fields were home to an organic cattle, hay and crop production that followed Pennsylvania Certified Organic standards. The organic certification continues to apply to the acreage.

Aside from the agricultural fields and the residential area, the Conservancy manages the property as a natural area, open to the public for low-impact recreation, such as hunting and hiking.

The lease will require the farmer to host, in collaboration with the conservancy, at least one educational program or tour every year to showcase agricultural activities and the surrounding natural area.

More information about the request for proposals can be found at

Additional information regarding the request for proposals or its required information is available by contacting land steward Bryan Ritti at (412) 586-2327 or at

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture offers a developing a farm business plan masters class, which may help interested parties complete their proposal to the conservancy.

More information about the class, set for Monday, is available by visiting

Qualified parties may send proposals by email or in a sealed envelope to: Bryan Ritti, land steward, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, 800 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222.

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