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 make 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 already 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 a number of projects throughout the county. We are proud to have preserved the 4th generation Stanek Farm in Elmwood Township and the Newton Farm and it’s beautiful views of the Manitou Passage from Jelinek Road in Leelanau Township.

You can read more about farmland protection, including a column by our Founding Director Brian Price discussing public funding in the form of a millage, as well as stories about area farms.

For information about protecting farmland, please contact our Director of Land Programs Matt Heiman: [email protected]