As the largest statewide gathering about farmland preservation in the nation, the Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit celebrated its 10th anniversary Nov. 5.
“Planting the Seeds of Future Prosperity” sought to educate nearly 300 attendees about news and issues regarding farmland preservation in the Buckeye State.
Farmland preservation is a collaborative effort among government and non-government entities to keep land strictly for agricultural use. Farmers engage in preservation to ward off commercial development, invest in future growth, enhance conservation practices and for financial security.
Ohio Agricultural Secretary Robert Boggs and Ohio State University President Gordon Gee opened the conference, while a special video address featuring USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan welcomed attendants.
OSU’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center hosted the one-day event.
Session topics included:
- The value of farmland
- 2007 Census of Agriculture
- Gauging support for farmland protection
- Reducing land-access barriers for new farmers
- Food policy and Ohio farmland
- Adapting to climate change using sustainable soil management
Taken every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches. The summit analyzed Ohio’s results so that attendants would be aware of Ohio farmland statistics and could better gauge preservation growth.
Julia Musson, associate director of conservation funding, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, moderated a discussion about a variety of techniques farmers employ to safeguard their land from non-farm development. Testimonials were shared about farmers’ experience with using state and federal easement programs and donation tactics to acquire their land.
With data accumulated from Ohio’s agricultural easement purchase program (AEPP), Musson was able to provide information about Ohio’s participating farmers.
Attendants learned that most participants in Ohio’s AEPP are older corn and soybean farmers with at least half of their land invested in preservation. Money from AEPP is used by participating farmers to pay off debt, accumulate more land, compensate farm help and to finance equipment and buildings among others.
“The major part of this farm has been in the family since 1868, the rest was added in 1958,” said one AEPP participant. “This was a very good way of paying off debt and setting the farm up as one block so it could not be divided and sold as parcels. The possibility of this farm ground to be carried on to the fifth, sixth generation is likely.”
New Jersey is responsible for introducing the concept of farmland preservation to thwart urban expansion. The state passed The Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, which helped alleviate tax burdens on farm property so that more farmers could keep and purchase land for agricultural purchases.
Another session highlighted the growing interest about how food travels from farm to plate. Eleven existing and emerging councils throughout Ohio were discussed that are devoted to raising awareness about the value of family farms to maintaining a safe, local food supply.
Participants took away valuable information about how to personally participate in preservation efforts. As more and more farmers are made aware of our state’s assistance options, and as these programs evolve to reflect farmer needs, more Ohio land will be reserved for our state’s largest industry.
Do you feel that farms are alive and well in Ohio? What should be done to ensure that family farms maintain their presence throughout the state? How can the importance of the issues discussed at the summit be introduced to general consumers?