Shady Side Farm Awarded MDARD Farmland Preservation Funds

Olive Township grower is one step closer to preserving 123 acres; applications for PDR program being accepted through end of April

WEST OLIVE – Mike Bronkema, co-owner and operator of Shady Side Farm in Olive Township, is no stranger to the idea of farmland preservation. “In ’92 we bought the farm that we’re on,” said the Holland-area native. “The farmer that sold me the land that I’m on wanted to see it preserved. He wanted me to buy the farm because he knew I was going to farm it instead of subdividing it.” Years later, Bronkema was part of the committee that helped push for the Agriculture Preservation Board he sits on today. “I realized that preserving farmland in Ottawa County was important, and that whatever we did had to benefit the farmers.”

Now, with a $168,750 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Bronkemas will be able to rest easy knowing the farm they’ve built over 30 years will continue to produce long after they’ve shorn their last sheep. These funds will help pay for an agricultural easement to permanently protect five parcels totaling 123 acres.

Shady Side Farm as seen from above in Olive Township. Run by the Bronkema family, their 123-acre operation is now one step closer to preservation thanks to a $168,750 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. [Ottawa County photos]

But getting to this point wasn’t easy. Supporting the program and qualifying to protect your own operation are two very different things. “(Sitting on the board) has nothing to do with it,” Bronkema mused. “Put it this way. It’s all the practices that you put in, in your farming, on your farm – in things that you’re doing to improve sustainability in your farm is what gets you approved for farmland preservation.”

The Bronkemas will be the sixth farming family to protect their land through Ottawa County’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. This program uses a combination of state and/or federal grant funding, private donations, and landowner contributions to purchase the development rights to farmland, creating a permanent agricultural conservation easement.

Creating easements through the sale of development rights guarantees the land is used for ag 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. The Bronkema easement brings the total number of acres protected by the PDR program to 566. This is in addition to 654 acres permanently preserved by the State of Michigan.

PDR applications being accepted through April 30

Interested in protecting your own farm, or know someone who might? Now through April 30, farmers and other landowners can apply to preserve their eligible, agriculturally zoned property by selling its development rights. Start the process today by completing a preapplication at

For more information on the Purchase of Development Rights Program, and other County efforts to ensure our vibrant local agricultural industry continues to thrive for generations, visit

About the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8 percent of its farmed acreage and 17 percent of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit