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Farm-to-Frame Exhibit Recognizes 40 Years of Somerset County Farm Preservation

By Rikki N. Massand | Posted April 4, 2023

Montgomery Township agriculture plays a prominent part in Somerset County’s Farm-to-Frame art exhibit, on display now in Somerville.

Artist Barbara A. Friedman holds her first-place painting of Beechtree Farm, located in Montgomery Township. From left: Somerset County Commissioners Melonie Marano and Paul Drake.

Montgomery Township can boast being the showcase of two of three award winning pieces of art honored at the March 24 reception, including artist Barbara A. Friedman, the 1st place winner of $500 for her oil painting of life at Beechtree Farm. She was congratulated by officials including Mayor Keenan.

Another oil painting, featuring the view on Route 601 of Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm by artist Janet Cunniffe-Chieffo, received the exhibit’s Honorable Mention.

The ongoing display in the first-floor lobby of the Somerset County Administration Building in Somerville (20 Grove Street) shows glorious landscapes depicting historic barns, ponds, and farm animals presented in photography, oil paintings, colored pencil, acrylic, watercolor, and mixed media.

Lavender Farm by artist Janet Cunniffe-Chieffo, Oil on Board, Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm, in Skillman

To “draw inspiration,” 30 New Jersey-based artists made visits to the county’s preserved farms including several here in Montgomery Township: Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm, Dressler Stables, Princeton Hulu Farm, Beechtree Farm, and Pariso Farm. About 2,500 farms in the state have been preserved to date.

Middlebush Farm in Franklin Township, Dutch Hollow Farm in Bedminster, and several Hillsborough farms also are featured in artists’ work in the exhibit.

On Friday evening March 24, the county’s Cultural and Heritage Commission hosted the “Farm to Frame” reception with dozens of guests on hand – including many of the artists whose works are on display in Somerville, plus Somerset County Agriculture Development Board (SCADB) members and farmers with their families.

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The event commemorates 40 years of Somerset County’s farmland preservation program, which coincides with New Jersey’s State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) turning 40 in 2023.

Elected officials present included State Assemblyman Roy Freiman, Somerset County Commissioners Melonie Marano and Paul Drake, Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan, and former Montgomery Deputy Mayors/Township Committee members Brad Fay and Shelly Bell.

A Few Paintings from the Exhibit

Before awards were presented County Commissioner Marano and Montgomery Landmarks Preservation Commission member Dawn Hammell with her young daughters viewed an acrylic painting of a black horse staring out from its pen at Dressler Stables on Cherry Hill Road in Skillman.

The work is by Barnegat-based Nancy Edwards, a former member of Hillsborough’s artists circles and is available for purchase.

The County Cultural & Heritage Commission also celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It provides thousands of Somerset County residents and visitors with annual arts, history and cultural programming, and funding for everything from community theaters to historic sites dating to the Revolutionary War era.

More than 248,000 acres of farmland have been preserved to date under New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program.

About 10,000 acres is provided through Somerset County programs. County Commissioner Paul Drake said 8,546 acres have been preserved to date, on 125 preserved farms. By the end of this year the county hopes to continue working with the SADC to preserve another 1,900 acres.

For comparison, neighboring Hunterdon County has successfully preserved over 35,000 acres of farmland.

“Preserving farmland is essential to Somerset County communities, culture, history and the environment,” Commissioner Drake said.

County Commissioner Marano said the award-winning Somerset County Preservation Plan safeguards – historic sites, open space, and farmland. It is a significant way of ensuring the agricultural heritage and legacy of the region remains part of the county’s mission and identity. ■

The exhibit is on display now from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except holidays, at the Cultural & Heritage Gallery, located on the first floor of the County Administration Building at 20 Grove Street in Somerville. The exhibit ends on Monday, May 1. It also will be displayed at Somerset County libraries and senior centers during the summer. Those who are unable to visit the artwork in person are invited to view the virtual Farm to Frame exhibit on the Cultural & Heritage Commission website.


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