WEST OLIVE — In the past five years, Ottawa County has lost more than 14,000 acres of farmland. This contraction is no coincidence considering Ottawa is the fastest growing county in the state. Add in the fact that roughly 30% of the nearly 2,000 Ottawa County producers are of retirement age, and less than 10% are under 35, and it’s easy to see why valuable agriculture acreage is disappearing.
To combat this loss, Ottawa County has a powerful tool: the Purchase of Development Rights program. Interested parties can apply now through April 30 to preserve their eligible, agriculturally zoned property by selling its development rights. Creating easements through the sale of development rights guarantees the land is used for agricultural purposes or remains in a natural state in perpetuity. Landowners are compensated for lost development potential, yet still own the land and retain all other rights associated with it.
Across Ottawa County, support for the PDR program is growing. In 2019, Olive, Robinson and Zeeland townships approved resolutions of support, bringing the total number of participating townships to 10.
“For our agricultural industry to thrive, it’s vital we work together to protect our productive farmland from development,” said Cliff Meeuwsen, Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board chair and Zeeland Farm Services president. “This program is a valuable tool in the County’s long-term strategy for farmland preservation.”
Interested landowners can start the process for the PDR program by completing the newly simplified Pre-Application available at miOttawa.org/farmland.
Not sure if it’s right for your farm? Learn about PDR program basics and the full application process from farmland preservation specialists at either of these two open houses set for 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday, March 16, and 9 a.m-10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex, 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive. RSVP by calling 616-738-4852 or plan@miOttawa.org.
To learn more about the program, complete a Pre-Application, and more, visit miOttawa.org/farmland. Interested parties are also welcome to contact our Farmland Preservation staff directly. Contact Julie Lamer at jlamer@miOttawa.org or call 616-738-4852.