Over the last three years, the Leelanau Conservancy has partnered with nine farm families to access available funding to conserve their farms. This year, four additional farm families will be working with the Leelanau Conservancy to conserve their farms, with the help of $1.8M in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). Once completed, these four farms, which total 688 acres, will be permanently conserved for agricultural use.
The newest farms to join the program include the 216-acre Hohnke & Sons Farm in Centerville Township, 200-acre Gene & Kathy Garthe Farm in Leelanau Township, 149 acres of the Mike & Janet McManus Farm in Leland Township, and 120 acres of the Tom & Marie Korson Farm in Suttons Bay Township.
“These four farms, as well as those that have already been preserved through the program, scored high in criteria that is set by FRPP,” says Tom Nelson, Director of Farm Programs. “And just as important, our supporters are passionate about farmland and step up with the 25 percent required match time after time. We are able to leverage this important resource because our supporters continually back us up.”
The Conservancy works with willing farmers and landowners who wish to permanently preserve their lands. For farm families, the program can be a remarkable tool to help the older generation prepare for retirement and enable the next generation to take over the farm. One of the key barriers to young farmers is the cost of land. Too often, farmable acreage is too expensive to cash-flow a crop due to the desirability for second-home development. The FRPP program helps resolve this issue by paying the owner to remove the “development premium” on the land, making the acreage more affordable for beginning farmers and helping to support a long-term, robust agricultural sector in Leelanau County.
Although the right to future residential development is extinguished, these families continue to own the land and to have the right to farm it. Their property also remains on the tax rolls. At the community-level, it helps keep the agricultural economy and the business environment for farming strong by protecting larger blocks of intact farms.
This FRPP award of nearly $1.9M will cover about half of the cost of protecting these three farms. The Leelanau Conservancy’s match will require approximately 25% of the needed funding—nearly $1.02M. Each named farm family will also donate more than 25% of the appraised value necessary to complete these projects.
Overall, this award brings the number of successful FRPP applications to 18 in the last 12 years, with 13 successful federal projects since 2010 alone. Donations to the Leelanau Conservancy’s Community Farmland Fund have helped to preserve over 4,000 acres of farmland. “Our collective efforts mean that Leelanau’s soaring agricultural economy and local foods movement is squarely on the map,” says Tom Nelson, Director of Farm Programs for the Leelanau Conservancy.
“We are humbled that these four long-standing farm families now join the ranks of growers who have made a permanent commitment to Leelanau’s farming identity,” adds Nelson. “Clearly, the local agricultural economic engine is on an upswing, and it is gratifying to partner with these truly fine people and the Natural Resources Conservation Service which administers the federal program. Together with our supporters, these families are ensuring that their farmland is available to future generations to produce food locally and continue a way of life that is uniquely Leelanau.”