Your Leelanau Conservancy is still saving farmland under a high threat of conversion to development despite the ongoing pandemic. Two more iconic farms rooted in Leelanau County’s agricultural heritage have been protected forever with conservation easements. Stay tuned for longer stories to come, but we couldn’t wait to share the heartening news that these lands will continue to be farmed for generations to come.
The Porritt Farm in Bingham Township: 136 Acres
Greg Porritt has protected the farm he grew up on that provides the missing link to a corridor of protected lands along Co. Rd 633. This pastoral land is now part of a large block that includes the historic Ruby Ellen and Core Farms, the Stanek Farm and orchards owned by the Gregory family. It also backs up to MSU’s Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station. “The fantastically beautiful Porritt farm adds to a highly productive, and protected agricultural area,” says Kim Hayes, Director of Farmland Protection. “It also preserves a wooded slope that is part of a critical wildlife corridor and helps to protect the water quality of nearby Lake Leelanau.” The land’s proximity to Traverse City and the views put it at a high risk for development, adds Kim. “Multiple home sites here would have irreparably altered the high conservation values.”
Greg Porritt: “Rex Dobson, who protected the first farm in Leelanau, was a huge influence on all of us,” says Greg. “His mother, Ruby Ellen was born on this farm. My parents and I were not big talkers. But it was always an implied understanding that the farm should be protected one day.”
The Mawby Family Farm in Suttons Bay Township: 152 Acres
Vintner Larry Mawby grew up on the farm that he and his two siblings, Joan Dunklow and Ron Mawby have protected with a conservation easement. The land is located near Plant Masters of Suttons Bay along M-22; an old farm market was there for years but was torn down recently. The family intends to sell the land, much of which is currently managed by the fruit farming operation known as Cherry Bay. “There easily could have been 12 or 13 homes built here,” says Kim. The project also protects a 10-acre wetland complex that takes in a groundwater-fed rich conifer swamp. “That complex is a big deal,” says Kim. “It’s a fantastic wildlife corridor that ultimately connects hydrologically to Grand Traverse Bay.”
Larry Mawby: “My parents and siblings always felt a sense of stewardship, to make sure that the land was preserved and left better than we found it. The Leelanau Conservancy has a track record of being able to do that and my family feels comfortable in entrusting it with that responsibility.”
How These Projects Were Funded: Both families donated 25% of the value of their land. Federal farmland protection funds through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service provided 50% of the cost, and donations from our wonderful supporters made up the remaining 25%.
“We could not be more delighted that the Porritt and Mawby families have partnered with us to permanently preserve their family farms,” says Tom Nelson, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We cherish their leadership in the farming community, and I know the greater Leelanau Community does as well. We are grateful to these heroes.”