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Mettlers Farmer to be County’s ‘Eyes and Ears’

Farmland at Mettlers and Weston roads.

Farmland at Mettlers and Weston roads.

A South Middlebush Road dairy farmer is once again farming a plot at Mettlers and Weston roads.

Bob Puskas, of Middlebsh Farms, was the winning bidder of the lease to the 40-acre, county owned plot. Puskas’ winning bid of $495 a year for each of the next five years – starting Jan.1 – won’t boost the county’s coffers much, but that’s not the point, a county official said.

Puskas, as well as other lessees of county owned open space, will serve as the county’s “eyes and ears” on the property, said Ray Brown, secretary/director of the Somerset County Park Commission.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it does help us with keeping it from going fallow,” Brown said.

Puskas also farmed the property when it was privately owned, Brown said.

The Mettlers lot was one of four in the county that recently leased. The other three are in Hillsborough and Branchburg.

Brown said the Mettlers property was purchased about a year ago from Aventis. The county had originally planned to make it an extension of Colonial Park, he said, but lacks the funds to do so.

So, rather than chance it becoming a “dumping ground,” Brown said, the decision was made to continue the years’-long practice of entering into short-term leases with farmers.

The county has been doing this for the last 10 to 15 years, Brown said.

“It’s scattered around the county in different locations,” he said. “We’re finding that it beats trying to keep staff there to monitor the properties. So we do this rather than have them go fallow, and then have to go back and deal with that in the future.”

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