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Ottawa County program preserves second family farm

• Oct 23, 2018 at 1:00 PM

CHESTER TWP. — The low, rolling hills in the northeastern corner of Ottawa County is where you’ll find the Klein family farm, the second to be preserved under a county program.

On their Chester Township farm, the Kleins grow corn, wheat and soybeans, as well as raise beef cattle.

On July 2, upon granting an easement to the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program, 55.63 acres of their farm became permanently preserved, meaning that this acreage will always be used as agricultural land. The Kleins’ property is directly adjacent to a 60-plus-acre parcel that has been preserved by Michigan’s Farmland Preservation and Open Space Program. These two preserved properties create more than 115 acres of contiguous preserved farmland.

According to a study released by the American Farmland Trust in 2018, almost 31 million acres of farmland has been lost across the United States from 1992 to 2012. That is the equivalent of all of the farmland in the state of Iowa.

Preserving prime farmland is critical to maintaining a high-quality, affordable food supply, Ottawa County officials say, and that is why the county’s Agricultural Preservation Board is working to preserve local farmland using the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) tool.

The county’s PDR tool preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. It is a voluntary program that allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, and they still retain ownership and the majority of the rights associated with it. The future use of the property will be restricted to only agricultural purposes by permanent easement deed, preventing any future development of the land.

Additional tools to preserve farmland include agricultural protection zoning techniques via local unit of government master plans and zoning codes, transfer of development rights initiatives, land partnership agreements, and agricultural conservation easements.

The Klein farm is the second farm to be preserved using the County’s PDR tool. The county preserved 34.9 acres of a hog farm in Polkton Township in 2016. The preservation of these farms supports the program’s mission of preserving the scenic, environmental and economic benefits that farms and farmland provide to their local communities and beyond.

“Agriculture is a huge economic driver in Ottawa County,” stated Cliff Meeuwsen, president of Zeeland Farm Services and chairman of the Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board. “Without the farmland needed to grow and raise our food, our county could slip from its current position as the third-highest producer of agricultural products in the state. We are passionate about using PDR as a tool for responsible development, which maintains farmland and creates opportunity for new farmers.”

The Farmland Preservation Program is funded through private donations, contributions from foundations, and state and federal grants. Without these resources, the program would not be able to continue to preserve and protect local farmland. If you are interested in making a contribution to the program, donations can be made to the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Fund through the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation. For additional program information, contact Julie Lamer, farmland preservation analyst, at 616-738-4852 or by email at [email protected], or visit the website.

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