Centennial Farm in Blendon Twp permanently protected

Farm Where You Belong

February 23, 2021

DeHaan parcel joins Farmland Protection Program

37-acre centennial farm in Blendon Township will be permanently protected

WEST OLIVE — Passed down from one generation to the next, family heirlooms are a legacy. For some, an heirloom is a bracelet or pocket watch. For others, it’s a classic car. For Carson DeHaan, it’s the family farm.

“My grandson works with me on the farm,” said DeHaan. “I want to pass down these acres to him and my son when I retire.”

Now, with the help of a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), DeHaan can rest assured his land will stay a family farm.

“The farm has been in the family since 1883,” DeHaan said. “I had to do something to preserve it.”  On Feb. 16, 2021, MDARD announced that the DeHaans were awarded $157,500 to help pay for an agricultural easement that will permanently protect 37 acres of their Blendon Township farm, almost all of which is considered prime soil type. Besides growing hay and corn, the DeHaans also raise beef cattle.

The DeHaans are the fifth 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.

DeHaan Centennial

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 DeHaan easement brings the total number of acres protected by the PDR program to 443. This is in addition to 654 acres permanently preserved by the State of Michigan.

While Ottawa County is making great progress protecting prime farmland, it is still critical to pick up the pace. Farmland doesn’t just provide food and jobs. Use of regenerative farming methods help to absorb carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change. But with development pressure and fewer farmers entering the industry to replace retiring farmers, Ottawa County lost 8% of its farmland from 2012 to 2017 while the State of Michigan as a whole lost 2% in the same period.  Fortunately, Michigan legislators recognize the time sensitive and critical need to protect farmland, and approved funding for the Michigan Agricultural Preservation Fund in 2019. This funding is secured at least through fiscal year 2022. This fund provides much-needed dollars to local units of government to secure easements on critical farmland. Ottawa County was fortunate to receive grant dollars from this fund last year to protect a 168-acre property in Chester Township, and again this year to protect the DeHaan property.

Applications to preserve land now being accepted through April 30

If the PDR program has piqued your interest, there’s no time like the present to learn more: now through April 30, interested parties can apply to preserve their eligible, agriculturally zoned property by selling its development rights.

Interested landowners can start the process by completing a Pre-Application at bit.ly/OCPDRapp.

“Ottawa County is losing too much farmland,” said Carson DeHaan. “The PDR program is a great tool for farmers.”

For more information on the farmland preservation program, visit miottawa.org/farmland.

Introducing the MiFarmLink Project

Aside from the PDR program, Ottawa County is also taking more innovative approaches to protecting farmland. With funding provided in part by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the County is building a new local farmer support resource: The MiFarmLink Project.

MiFarmLink aims to help shepherd prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful. The recently launched MiFarmLink.org offers the latest information on this budding initiative. Watch for landing page updates as progress is made.


Carson DeHaan’s 37-acre farm has been in the family since 1883.