Claire de Groot remembers moving to the farm on Route 34 in Colts Neck in 1936 when she was six years old. At that time there was farmland as far as the eye could see. “I have so many cherished memories from this land,” Claire remembers. “We used to go ice skating in the pond, that was back when ponds still froze,” and “at one time I actually had a pet skunk,” Claire chuckles as she fondly recalls.
Claire de Groot moved to the approximately 60-acre farm with her family 83 years ago when Colts Neck was a sleepy, rural town where practically everyone knew each other. She met her husband while attending Red Bank High School and the couple raised a family with four children, moving every two years due to her husband’s career in the United States Navy. Now married 67 years, the farm has been the backdrop for a lifetime worth of memories. “We always referred to the farm as our Homeland,” recalls Claire. “It was always a place where time seemed to stop, and we could spend endless hours together enjoying the outdoors.”
“From all the places we lived, this place always felt like home. It was always like a little slice of heaven to us,” Claire explained. “We knew that we could never allow this beautiful land that holds so many cherished family memories to become covered with houses.”
Over the past 83 years Colts Neck transformed from a rural farm town to a desired, residential estate community. Although the area still retains much of its rural character, thousands of homes have been built and thousands of acres of natural land have been lost forever. However, Claire can now rest assured that her family farm will never be developed.
“We knew we wanted to see the land preserved,” explained Claire, who made the decision to preserve their family farm, not once, but twice. First, when the family preserved 20 acres in 2005 and now the remaining 40 acres, forever uniting the 60 acres as their family farm, forever.
“Monmouth Conservation Foundation is so pleased to see this beautiful piece of farmland preserved,” explained William Kastning, Executive Director for Monmouth Conservation Foundation. “MCF partnered with the State Agriculture Development Committee, the County of Monmouth and the Township of Colts Neck for funding to purchase the development rights on the farm and ensure it remains protected from development.”
“We are so happy that the de Groot family chose to preserve their farm,” explained Holly Boylan-Flego, President of the MCF Board of Trustees. “We hope that more farm owning families will follow in the de Groot’s footsteps and choose to preserve rather than develop their land.”
“Our decision to preserve the farm is something that gives me peace when I go to bed at night,” Claire remarked. “No matter what happens, this land will remain a farm and part of the community.”
Did you know?
Monmouth County has lost over 100,000 acres of farmland between 1954 and 2012 (U.S. Census data).
Of the remaining farmland in Monmouth County, 15,429 acres are preserved through the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program. This acreage now includes the de Groot farm.
The cost to purchase the development rights on farmland in Monmouth County ranges from $10,000 to $60,000 per acre. These values are dependent on the farmland characteristics and location of each property, as well as current market conditions.
The quality of the soil is a driving factor behind farmland preservation. The goal is to protect farms with the best soils for growing food.