Easements Help People Reconnect Parcels to the Family Farm

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:03/27/2012

This post is a continuation from last week, about the successful Tecumseh Land Trust in Ohio.

In working with landowners who are new to conservation easements, the Tecumseh Land Trust often has a lot of explaining to do.  “We especially urge people to look at the Private Landowner Network as they start thinking about what the possibilities are for their land,” explains Krista Magaw, Tecumseh’s Executive Director.  “If I do a presentation for a new group of people, I tell them to look at American Farmland Trust, the Land Trust Alliance, and PLN.  Each one has a different framework, and they are all really good organizations.  In fact, I just recommended PLN at a talk I did day before yesterday!

“One of our landowners, a really nice lady who eventually came on our board, wanted to buy out her brother’s half of the property, since he’d left the area and was ready to sell.  We took six or seven years to purchase the easement, and she used the money to pay down her debt from her purchase loan.”

Increasingly, the younger generation of Ohio farmers is seeking to reassemble their historic family holdings into a larger farm.  Other landowners who take up or return to farming may scramble to find enough land to farm profitably. They want to buy more, and as Krista says, “with the number of abandoned strip malls in parts of Ohio, that is not terribly hard to do.”  By facilitating this type of easement, Tecumseh is literally reconnecting a divided landscape, encouraging working farms and communities.  These easements not only help landowners but also help to rationalize local land use, since towns will not have to take urban services into preserved areas.  “One block that we helped to protect is over 3200 acres, and that’s big for Ohio!” exclaims Krista.  

“We are a good example of a local land trust that has a fundamental natural resource protection mission, and which has educated itself about the economics of farming,” Krista explains.  They are also mixing it up, pushing the local foods trend by hosting “meet your farmer” dinners in urban centers such as Dayton.  “Selling tickets to these events is one of our best sources of new supporters,” says Krista.  “The land trusts that are most successful know how to put dollars together.  Equally important, however, is the rural dwellers whose connection to the land motivates all of these activities.”  

And did you know that 4H traces its origins to Clark County, Ohio in 1902?