York County Neighbors Work Together to Purchase and Protect Farmland

YORK, Pa. — Three York County neighbors worked a deal to ensure a 114-acre property would stay farmland.

Miller’s Plant Farm, Perrydell Farm and Dairy and Keel-Mar Materials Landscape and Supply bought the Keeney Farm, which is between the three properties. They are dividing the land among the businesses.

“Nobody wanted to bite the whole farm off. It was just too much to take on at once,” said Dave Miller, owner of Miller’s Plant Farm.

Kevin Fake, owner of Keel-Mar, a landscape and hay company, credits his mother, Barbara Fake, with the idea for a joint purchase. An employee of Miller’s Plant Farm, she presented the idea to Miller who reached out to the other two parties.

“These guys all grew up on this road. I spent a lot of time here. We didn’t want to see it changed,” Kevin said.

Miller is the fourth generation of Miller’s Plant Farm, and he works alongside his son and nephew, the fifth generation. Likewise, Greg Perry and his two brothers run Perrydell, which has been in the family since 1923.

Kevin bought his land from his uncle, whose father purchased it in 1938.

Brothers Paul and David Keeney ran the Keeney Farm, growing produce and selling at market, as the fourth generation, Miller said. But the farm has been leased since 2012 as neither David nor Paul had any children.

David passed away last year, and Paul moved into a nursing home where he recently celebrated his 94th birthday, Miller said.

“We knew it had to be sold, so we went to the bank and made an offer,” Kevin said.

That was in August 2022. April 6, they settled on the property.

They moved the deal from the primary bank into Horizon Farm Credit where they are now working on dividing up the loan and the land.

“They at no time threw any red flags up. They were all in right from the start. ... They were glad to see it preserved and stay in farming,” Miller said about working with Horizon Farm Credit.

All three businesses operate a retail store on Indian Rock Dam Road. They agreed that if the land would have been developed — what they feared would happen if they didn’t purchase it — it could have helped their retail businesses.

But they didn’t care about the business boost because they wanted to see the land continue to be farmed. Through this process, Miller said, he has learned that there are still people who value relationships more than money.

“I’d say there still are good people. I’ve learned that,” Kevin said. “My neighbors, my banker. And the other thing I want to mention is the outpouring that we got from the community.”

With the $1.6 million sale, they were looking for tax relief for Paul. He was able to preserve the land before the purchase, receiving that benefit and ensuring the property stays farmed.

None of the other three farms are currently preserved, but Miller is working on doing so with 95 acres of Miller’s Plant Farm.

The Keeneys’ property will be divided with 55.3 acres going to the Perrys, 27.9 going to Keel-Mar and 31.64 going to the Millers. Kevin will be planting hay on his portion while Miller will be renting his land to Perry who will grow corn and soybeans on the rented land and his own part.

Already growing feed on the Perrys’ 180 owned acres and 170 rented acres, Perry said he hopes to sell the additional crop in high-yield years.

All three men agree the experience was unique and brought them together. They also said it was a positive opportunity working with and getting to know their neighbors.

Kevin and Miller both said they thought the purchase went well because they agreed on most things.

“Well, the lenders said they’ll never see this again, or they don’t think they will, ...” Perry said. “If we could make this happen, it would’ve been a good thing, and so far it has turned out that way.”

Keeney Farm Parties 2023
From left: Kevin Fake, Dave Miller, and Greg Perry. Seated, Paul Keeney

This article was originally published in Lancaster Farmer on May 3, 2023. View the entire article here.

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