Nick Rizzo grew up a city kid in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Despite his urban surroundings, Rizzo’s heart was always with farming. He and his father, Nick Sr., used to wake up at 6 a.m. to watch farm shows on television to satisfy his yearning to be surrounded by green fields instead of paved city streets.
On Thursday, Rizzo and his wife, Brenda, took their love of agriculture to another level when they preserved 52 acres of their Black Creek Township farm.
To accomplish the task, Rizzo sold the development rights to his farm through the Luzerne County Farm Preservation Program. For $3,400 per acre, Rizzo’s farmland will never become a housing development and will always remain green.
Rizzo said the reason behind the decision was simple.
“I know this is what my father wanted,” he said while standing in front of his farmhouse. “I feel good about it.”
Rizzo’s farm becomes the 25th preserved since the county program began in 2000. Since then, more than 2,500 acres of Luzerne County farmland have been preserved.
Nancy Snee, who coordinates the preservation program for the Luzerne County Planning Commission, said a number of factors made Rizzo’s farm appealing, including that it is close to several other farms that have been preserved in the area.
“To reach 25 is a nice milestone. We try to do one or two a year and we just want to keep it going steady,” Snee said.
So far, eight farms totaling 784 acres have been preserved in Black Creek Township. Snee said there is a waiting list of approximately 20 farms, and another could be preserved later this year.
For Rizzo, the preservation is a fitting milestone for the work that two generations of his family did to bring his old farm back to life. Before his father purchased the farm in 1957, the property and buildings sat unused for seven years. With plenty of long days repairing the home and outbuildings, the Rizzo family moved to the farm in 1960.
Today, Rizzo makes hay from the fields for his horses, 19 black Angus cattle and their camel, “Humphrey.” Rizzo’s excavating and hauling business serves as full-time job, but his heart was always with farming.
“Farming was always my first choice, but it’s a hard living,” Rizzo said. “But I really want to see agricultural land stay productive in farming because they’re not making any more of it. It’s very important to keep what we have.”
Rizzo said he would recommend the program to others and added it would be nice if the state legislature enacted a tax freeze on preserved farms because the land can’t be developed and only has agricultural value.
Still, with eight of his neighbor’s farms in the township preserved, Rizzo is optimistic about the future of farmland in Black Creek.
“I hope there’s more to come around here,” he said.