Three Augusts have passed since my partner Joe and I purchased the Buffum Farm off of French Road, which was protected by a conservation easement by the Leelanau Conservancy in 2003. The reality of owning over 80 acres in Leelanau County is finally settling in, and I would like to take a moment to share my experiences and gratitude with you.
With a maiden name of Fouch, my roots go back to the beginning of Leelanau and its farm heritage. It is with this name that I take much pride in the county of Leelanau. When I stand on Fouch Hill and overlook the housing development of the old homestead, my heart aches. As I see the winding trail of Lake Leelanau disappear into the horizon, I cannot help but wonder what I would be looking at if the Conservancy had been around in the late 60s when my Great Grandmother sold her 100 + acres.
A widow then, my Great Grandmother, with eight grown children–detesting the poverty of the potato farmer–had no choice. She sold the hill, the farm land, and the views to a developer who turned it into what it is now. You have seen it; you can form your own opinion.
I think, “What if?” What if she was able to sell the development rights and would have been able to keep the farm? The south end of Lake Leelanau would be this beautiful picture of rolling hills, trout streams, trees, and daydreams of a time passed by. But now you would never know what was once there: a farmhouse, a barn, and outbuildings with a family. Now you would never know it had a history.
This is what intrigues me so much about the Buffum Farm. I feel so lucky to be able to own a piece of homesteaded history. Outside the old barn, on the moss covered steps that lead up to an old foundation, we found a newspaper found between boards decreeing the Bartholdi Statue . . . a gift from France was placed in New York Harbor . . . the Statue of Liberty. A family with a history once lived here; this is worth preserving. I cannot wait to dirty my hands and start my own story, to pick up where they left off.
The Conservancy Picnic was a wonderful event. I stood in the crowd at the age of 42, and I finally GOT IT! It truly is about preserving and conserving the Leelanau that we love, so one day; others can enjoy the same experiences. Together, we protect: together we create a history . . . another one worth preserving. I am looking forward to working with the Conservancy in the future. I am really pleased with its message and I will continue to support all it stands for.
Shari Fouch Prevost 10/1/13