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Goudschaal: Near Leland

Claudia’s Big Picture Perspective

From our 2010 Spring Newsletter

Claudia Goudschaal left quite a legacy behind when she passed away in November. “She was a person who was very visible and committed to so many organizations, including ours,” says Conservancy Director Brian Price. “She was fascinated with history and the Great Lakes and I think that this also provided the basis from which she viewed the Leelanau Conservancy. She looked at the long term perspective of how the land was settled and had a full appreciation of how we as humans have interacted with it.”

Claudia will be remembered as a conservationist who has ensured that 56 acres of her 80-acre farm will forever remain in agriculture. “She truly believed that our agricultural lands were getting covered up with condos and concrete and did not want this to happen in beautiful Leelanau,” says Bobbie Poor, Claudia’s sister, the executor of her estate and a longtime Conservancy docent and volunteer.

In 1995 Claudia donated a conservation easement on 23.4 acres of her Leland Township farm. At the time she also signed a second 33-acre conservation easement which became official at the time of her death. “She didn’t know if health care costs might force her to sell off a portion of her assets later in life,” says Bobbie. “She didn’t want to tie everything up, so she hedged her bets and things worked out the way she thought they would.” Now the working farmland that overlooks the Manitou Passage has been forever preserved.

All 56 acres have been tended by Bruce Carlson under a long-term lease. He calls Claudia his “guardian angel of farming.”

“If it weren’t for Claudia, I would not be farming today,” says Bruce. “She always said, ‘We got to keep the farmer in the field.’ Claudia didn’t care about money. Her land could have all gone for houses, I have no doubt. She used to tell stories about developers showing up in coveralls pretending to be farmers who wanted to buy her land. But she wouldn’t be fooled. She was very concerned about young farmers like me and our ability to get into farming.”

Claudia’s partnership with Bruce and the Leelanau Conservancy deepened in 1998 when the Conservancy acquired an option to purchase 52 acres of working farmland adjacent to her 80 acres. The Conservancy wanted to purchase the land, restrict the property to agricultural uses, and then resell it to a local farmer for its appraised agricultural value. Bruce really wanted the land but could not afford it at the time. Claudia stepped in and bought it, then sold all but an 11-acre wetland to Carlson on a three-year land contract. “She basically financed me,” says Bruce.

The land is part of a 200-acre contiguous block of farmland, scenic vistas, wetlands and wildlife corridors. The spectacular views of Lake Michigan and scenic farmland seen from Jelinek Road were preserved, as well as a mile of M-22 frontage.

Claudia’s passion for farmland led her to help found the Leelanau Agricultural Alliance, which laid the foundation for our farmland protection efforts today. “Everything she did, whether it was for plants, birds or agriculture was grounded in considerations that were bigger than her own individual situation and for the good of the community going forward,” adds Price.

Claudia’s sister agrees. “Preserving the land for farming was just a very important commitment to her,” says Bobbie. “She really believed in leaving things a little better than she found them.”