State College, Penn., April 4, 2013 —Norm Lathbury of Centre Hall, Penn. was named winner of American Farmland Trust’s Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Local Heroes Award. The award, which is given in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association, recognizes outstanding efforts to protect farmland, promote environmentally sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land.
As the Agricultural Land Preservation Coordinator for Centre County and cofounder and executive director of the Centre County Farmland Trust, Lathbury secured more than $2 million for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, helping to protect more than 4,000 acres of Centre County farmland. He also assisted local townships in establishing agricultural security areas (ASAs) that under his guidance enrolled more than 500 farms.
“Norm Lathbury’s contribution to the agriculture industry’s future in Centre County will serve many generations to come and his name will long be a part of preserving farmland with his ‘boots on the ground,’” said Bill Keough, chairman of the Centre County Agricultural Land Board.
Bob Anderson, board member of Centre County Farmland Trust shared an example of Latham’s dedication. “As the number of preserved farms in Centre County increased, the requirement to annually observe each site for compliance became a challenge,” Anderson explained. “What was once a half day van ride to cover all the farms, was turning into three full days for Norm and members of the Board. Not to be discouraged, Norm took to the air, making annual farm visits via a two-seater aircraft. By air the observations were far more comprehensive and the photographs of agricultural activity were incorporated into the annual report submitted to the Pennsylvania Ag Land Board program. His passion for preserving farmland will be felt for generations to come. ”
“Being a part of a program and process that provides and protects the food, fiber and agricultural lifestyle for future generations is and has been a great honor,” Lathbury said. Prior to his involvement in farmland preservation, Lathbury worked for 21 years with Penn State’s continuing education program, nine years at the Harrisburg Area Community College Wildwood Conference Center, and 28 years in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
“This award honors the people who make Pennsylvania a nationwide leader in farmland protection, said Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic director for American Farmland Trust, who will present the award on Thursday night. “Norm Lathbury’s dedication to preserving farmland from unplanned development will have a lasting impact on Pennsylvania’s economy and environment.”
“Norm Lathbury has been a determined advocate for land conservation and his work in Centre County has helped local farmers and landowners improve land management and make tremendous environmental gains that will benefit our community now and for decades to come,” stated U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson. “I want to thank the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association and the American Farmland Trust for their dedication and work to expand conservation initiatives and improve conservation programs, which are tremendously important to our agriculture community and a major tool necessary to help preserve agricultural lands and sustain and grow healthy rural economies.”
The Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Local Heroes Award is given by American Farmland Trust in conjunction with Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association (PFPA), at each of their semiannual meetings, which are hosted by different county farmland preservation boards. PFPA is a non-profit, nonpartisan statewide association of farmland preservation professionals dedicated to promoting and enhancing the interests of agricultural land preservation in Pennsylvania. PFPA provides technical training to develop skills and resources for the organization’s members, promotes standards among the farmland preservation sector, and provides comments on programs, regulations and legislation.