168 More Acres of Farmland Preserved in Ottawa County

Farm Where You Belong

November 30, 2020

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Chester Township crop farm added to preserved properties 

 Jim Klein has agriculture in his blood. His forbearers began working the productive soils of northeast Ottawa County in the 1860s. But legacy alone won’t guarantee his Chester Township crop farm endures. That’s why, with help from the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program and a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant, he’s preserved 168 acres.

“Protecting our property was a no-brainer,” said Klein. “I was worried my farm may not be here forever.”

Klein’s parcel bested seven others to become the first Ottawa County farm to be awarded a MDARD Local Farmland Preservation Program grant.

“We were thrilled to have received so many high quality applications, and to be able to help Ottawa County protect over 168 acres of farmland from development,” Michigan Agriculture Fund Board Chair Carl Bednarski said this past February. “The Kleins have a long history of farming in Chester Township, and now the family also has a long future to farm this ground.”

Jim Klein

With its history and continued use for commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat, Jim Klein’s property embodies the scenic, environmental and economic importance of Ottawa County agriculture. It’s important that parcels like the Klein's are being preserved, because Ottawa County’s farmland is shrinking: From 2012-2017, the county lost 17% of its farms (2017 Ag Census). And when we lose local farms, we lose more just than scenery. 

“Farmland loss can be counted in dollars as well as acres. In Ottawa County, well over 9,000 people are employed in the ag industry, and over $500 million in ag products are sold annually,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “Agriculture is an essential player in the regional economy, and a source of local food security.”

The Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board works to guard valuable agricultural land like Jim Klein’s with its Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) tool. 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 of actively farmed property. It is a voluntary program that allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it. Future development is prevented through a permanent easement deed that requires the property only be used for ag purposes. Additional farmland preservation tools include agricultural protection zoning techniques via local unit of government master plans and zoning codes; transfer of development rights initiatives; and succession planning.

Jim Klein’s property brings the total number of acres preserved through the County PDR program to 406. And this isn’t the only Klein property the County has protected. Jim Klein also farms in partnership with his brother, Don Klein. They preserved 56 acres of a separate Chester Township crop and beef cattle farm in 2018.

“We’re proud to add Jim’s property to our preservation portfolio,” said Huttenga. “Every acre protected is an investment in our economy, our environment, and our character.”

For more information on Ottawa County’s PDR program, or to learn how you can protect your farmland from development, visit miottawa.org/farmland; email plan@miOttawa.org; or 616-738-4852.