Frederick County launched the Critical Farms Program in 1995 to preserve prime farmland and to help full-time farmers purchase farmland. Once a farm is accepted into the program, the county buys a five-year option on a conservation easement for 75 percent of the appraised easement value. The easement value is set at 70 percent of the parcels fair market value. In exchange farmers are required to apply to a state PACE program. If the applicant is successful in selling the easement, the farmer must repay the county the option price. If the farmer fails to sell the easement within the option period, the farmer must repay the option amount or the county can place a permanent conservation easement on the property.