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By David Madden

UPPER PITTSGROVE TWP, NJ (CBS) — A South Jersey community has been honored for its ongoing efforts to preserve farmland.

They’ve done so well, they’ve reached a landmark no other municipality has been able to duplicate.

Upper Pittsgrove Township in Salem County is the first in New Jersey to protect 10,000 acres of farmland. They were among the first to get involved in keeping development at bay a quarter century ago.

“When you look at the fact that we’ve got more than eight million people in this state, more people per square mile than the country of India, you’ve got to be thinking about the future,” said township Mayor Jack Cimprich. “We are running out of things like water and other resources. Keeping the farms here will help ensure that we have the resources to stay self sufficient.”

The next closest township is Upper Freehold in Monmouth County, some 40 acres shy of the mark.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney says the efforts started here prompted the rest of the state to act.

“We finally, after all these years, have a dedicated source of funding which was always a challenge,” Sweeney said. “We used to have go out and ask the public to bond. The public always came through, but having a dedicated source is so important because we don’t have to do that anymore.”

And for people to be able to experience the “garden” part of the Garden State is, to quote Sweeney, a “game changer.”

Local officials promise to keep up their preservation efforts.

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