Agriculture is a very important part of Leelanau County’s landscape, economy, and cultural heritage. Farms and farmland contribute to the scenic beauty and rural character that makes Leelanau such a desirable place to live and visit. A growing population (Leelanau experienced a 28 percent growth between 1990 and 2000) and a housing boom (2,400 new homes built in the same time period) are putting pressures on the land. Many farmers are finding it hard to say no to selling land that is worth far more as residential development—especially in light of low prices for cherries and apples.
The Leelanau Conservancy has protected nearly 5,000 acres of farmland through a mechanism called Purchase of Development Rights. In a nutshell, farmers are paid the difference between what their land is worth as farmland versus what it is worth as residential land. Farmers retain all rights to their land and continue to farm it, but the land is restricted from development. Each agreement—the legal term is conservation easement— is different and is tailored to the needs and desires of each landowner.
To date, the Conservancy has brought in over $4 million in state and federal farmland protection funds to complete several projects throughout the county. We are proud to have preserved the 4th generation Stanek Farm in Elmwood Township and the Newton Farm and its beautiful views of the Manitou Passage from Jelinek Road in Leelanau Township.
For information about protecting farmland, please contact our Director of Land Protection Matt Heiman: [email protected]
Farmer to Farmer Program
We are happy to partner with regional organizations on a new program that provides matchmaking for farmers. Farmer to Farmer connects buyers and sellers as well as lessors and lessees of farmland, while also connecting farmers with potential employees through an online database.
The Leelanau Conservancy is spearheading the project, which covers five counties, and is working closely with M.S.U. Horticulture Research Center, Taste the Local Difference, and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy on the initiative. The new Farmer to Farmer website is now up and running, so please spread the word to family and friends who might be interested. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Brian Bourdages, [email protected].