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North Hill Farm

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Wood duck box in the pond.

From the top of North Hill the Bieber Creek Watershed is visible.

Jeffrey and Deborah Sweinhart are the lucky owners of North Hill Farm which is well named. During this visit snow clung to the rolling hay fields, pastures, stone fence rows and woodlots. Winds blew fierce and strong. The atmosphere seemed wild, invigorating and alive. Pristine creeks run swiftly to the east and west.

The farm is secluded yet has sweeping views of the Oley Hills and Valley.

The house isn't visible from the road.

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Jeff and his father, Dennis, working with the carriage that carried Jeff and Debbie home after their wedding at The Spangville Church.

Jeff has a steam tractor.

This is a view from North Hill of the Pine Creek Watershed.

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Debbie      Jeff

Debbie & Jeff with their neighbor's dog, Donner, on the the old tractor.

Debbie with a horse.

Jeff and his neighbor, Donner.

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Story by Lorah Hopkins.

The Oysterville Valley nestled below retained a mere scattering of the recent snow.

Sitting astride her horse at the top hayfield looking toward the farm made Debbie smile. It is one of her favorite views. She and Jeff had purchased North Hill in August 2003. She now has a good home for her horse, their prize Angus cattle and the family cats.      

Jeff observed that when he was growing up, certain land was considered not buildable. Now everyone feels he can build anywhere. As a young man, the US Fish and Wildlife Service stopped Jeff as he cleared wetlands with a bulldozer. This incident began his education about conservation.

Later Jeff witnessed favorite countryside disappear as trees were ripped down, earth moved and new lots built upon - the peace shattered with noise. Jeff became a conservationist. He joined Pine Creek Valley Watershed Association. He fought for wetlands. The folks who had reported him years earlier became his heroes. He wanted to be personally involved; North Hill Farm became available.

"North Hill Farm is both paradise and money pit," said Jeff. "I like that there is always something to do. I like its setting, its location and feel honored to live in the Oley Hills. I am proud knowing that we have preserved this land, hopefully for eternity."

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Jeff was glad that Debbie and he had worked hard to restore the farm and make the land farmable. It had lain fallow for ten years. They cleared the fence rows, cleaned up the downed trees which are used to heat the house. They cultivated hay fields and pastures. It was great land for grass, perfect for cattle and horses.

The previous owner wanted to preserve the 105 acre property, but had not taken the legal steps to do it before her death. The tract has frontage on three roads and was known to be highly desirable to development interests.

Because the tract was a conservation priority of the Oley Hills, The William B. Butz Memorial Fund provided a grant to property conservation buyers for purchase of development rights with the provision that an easement be placed on it at the time of purchase for permanent protection.

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Today the land cannot be subdivided or other houses be built upon it. New farm buildings need to meet the requirements of local building code. It is in an agricultural district so animals are permitted. The property owner may grow and cut trees, raise crops and pasture.

The smoke house has a view of the pond.

Jeff and Debbie at the POD/PC booth at the Oley Fair wtih Sarah and Dennis Sweinhart.

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Once a year, The Berks Conservancy does an inspection to make sure the terms of the agricultural easement are are being met.     

"Why don't other people get easements?" Debbie asked. Jeff suggested that they fear that they will lose the value of their property and be restricted in what they can do with it.

Debbie answered, "This is not true. We will talk with anyone about our experience. There have been no negatives."

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In the Oley Hills all wheel drive is often needed.

The Oysterville Watershed seen from North Hill.

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