WEST OLIVE — With continued population growth and a burgeoning economy, the landscape of Ottawa County is changing, and too often farmland gives way to development, both commercial and residential. Ottawa County has a strong and vibrant agricultural sector and that’s why Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program is stepping up its efforts.
Recently, Ottawa County leaders distributed a Farmland Preservation survey to more than 1,600 landowners with at least 5 acres of agriculturally zoned parcels within the county to gauge thoughts, attitudes and knowledge of the program. The results are in — with 25% (408 of 1,636) of those contacted responding, a majority generally supported program goals: 82% think farmland loss is now or could be a problem, and 82% think it’s important to preserve farmland in Ottawa County.
Some other key takeaways from the survey (which represented every township in the County) include:
- 63% agreed the creation of agricultural conservation easements is an important farmland preservation method,
- 78% agreed effective succession planning is an important farmland preservation method, and
- 88% felt that farmland loss could be reduced with an improved growth strategy using planning and zoning.
The complete survey results can be viewed at www.miottawa.org/farmland. Over the next several months, county staff will assemble an implementation strategy based on the survey results, input gleaned from other key stakeholders, ag census data, and locally sourced data. The result will be a more comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to farmland preservation that will not only address the land itself, but also some of the barriers to economic viability in farming operations, like the lack of a succession plan.
Adam Dietrich, Ottawa County apple farmer and chair of the Michigan Farm Bureau State Young Farmer Committee, agrees that much needs to be done to preserve the County’s agricultural heritage.
“The conversations around how the farm will transition to the next generation, or even if it will pass to the next generation, need to start early and happen often,” he said. “The lack of a succession plan is a huge contributor to the loss of farmland. When there is no plan in place, it’s real easy to just throw up your hands and sell to a developer”.
To learn more about farmland preservation in Ottawa County, apply to have your farmland permanently preserved, donate to our Purchase of Development Rights Program, or participate in our upcoming Farms are the Tapas Fundraising event, visit www.miottawa.org/farmland.