Archived entries for agriculture

Scenic farm and bluffland property protected forever.

We received some wonderful news last week from our member land trust Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). If you have a connection to the Mississippi River Valley, or simply care about protecting special places in Wisconsin, you’ll want to read MVC’s press release below:

Mississippi River Valley Property Conserved

A drive the through the Mississippi River Valley now features brilliant fall colors, and a short distance east of Ferryville, Mississippi Valley Conservancy has ensured 189-acres of scenic bluffland will remain intact for future generations. The Conservancy completed a conservation agreement with Ken and Deneen Kickbusch on Thursday, October 20th to permanently protect their 189-acre farm and bluffland.  The voluntary conservation agreement protects the scenic beauty and wildlife habitat by limiting future subdivision, development, mining, and other unsustainable activities that are inconsistent with the landowner’s wishes. The land remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

“The animals and the birds don’t always have contiguous habitat, and our land can make a difference for the wildlife,” said Deneen, “we have so many great memories here.” Their memories include hunting trips with sons and grandsons, camping within view of the Mississippi River, working in the prairie, serenades by whippoorwills, and startling wood ducks out of the ponds.  Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director for the Conservancy stated, “Ken and Deneen have been so thoughtful about the use of their land and the future of that land. We are honored to be a part of realizing their dream to protect the wildlife and its habitat.”

 

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The Kickbusch 189 acre property is comprised of farmland, bluffland and prairie communities. Its protection ensures wildlife and native plants will have suitable habitat, forever.  

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

The Kickbusch’s bought the land in 1976, attracted to the rural character, the lack of buildings, and the wildlife. The land is a mix of agricultural land and wooded bluffs, with the steep rugged topography characteristic of the Driftless Area. Ken and Deneen recognized the importance of land preservation, watching changes to the landscape as commodity prices rise, stating, “a conservation easement would provide the kind of protection that this highly erodible land deserves”. Nationwide an acre of farmland is lost every minute from conversion to other land uses. Over the years, terraces and water retention ponds were added to the Kickbusch property to address soil erosion and runoff. “When we bought the property, we restored the ponds,” said Ken, “which were as full this year as they have ever been, and always used by the wood ducks. Once, I counted sixteen wood ducks flying out of the pond.”

The land also includes several “goat” prairies, labeled as such because the early settlers thought they were so steep, only a goat could climb them. The prairies include the same wildflowers and grasses that were present here 200 years ago. The agreement with the Conservancy ensures that habitat remains intact for wildlife, and future owners honor the conservation practices within the farmland. “There is just too much abuse of the land, devastating local communities, rivers, wildlife,” said Ken “we felt this was something solid, something real we could do for the future”.

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Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid, found on the Kickbusch property. The orchid was recently added to the DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern”. The native wildflowers & grasses found today have been present on the Kickbusch land for over 200 years. 

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

“The Kickbusch’s land provides a great example of how little is known about the habitat right here in our backyard,” remarked Abbie Church, Conservation Director for the Conservancy, “as we walked through the prairie, we found a small stalk of snow-white blooms, and a Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid. We walked on to find five other stalks. This orchid was recently added to the Wisconsin DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern” and the University of Wisconsin herbarium has no previous records of this orchid being found in Crawford County. One week later we found yet another species of rare orchid, this time in the woods, another new record for Crawford County.” The prairie today is in great shape due to Ken and Deneen’s efforts. “Fifteen years ago Ken went out and cut the red cedars in the prairie,” according to Deneen, “It looks much better today than ever before; the prairie is so beautiful”.

 

FarmAbility: Building Bridges with the Community

Focusing on the belief that a strong community connection with agriculture is integral to our economic health, retaining our heritage and quality of life, and living sustainably, Leelanau Conservancy in Michigan designed and launched FarmAbility in 2009. This program connects the land trust with farmers, leading them down the path to permanent land protection.

FarmAbility leads farmers on a path of permanent land protection.

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Farmers enrolled in FarmAbility receive modest income incentives and long-term planning assistance in exchange for keeping their farmland in production for a minimum of 10 years. This program was adapted by neighboring Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy in 2013, and between the two land trusts, over 7000 acres of property have been enrolled so far.

Brian Bourdages of Grand Traverse says, “It’s an honor to work with those farmers and farm families that want to utilize various farmland protection methods to ensure our globally unique farmland remains valuable for farming in the future.”

Interested in the ideas and methods behind this program? You can talk with Bourdages and Tom Nelson, the developer of FarmAbility for Leelanau Conservancy, at an ask-an-expert call on November 1st at 11am. Registration is free for our individual and land trust members.  (Not a member?  Join today!)

These calls are a virtual component to our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program. Interested in learning more about how LEAP can help you and your land trust? Contact us any time!

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Interested in knowing more about farmland protection in Wisconsin? Check out our Working Lands page.

Tall Pines Conservancy Concert on the Farm

On Saturday, October 1st, Tall Pines Conservancy hosted its first ever Concert on the Farm as part of their annual Fall Harvest festival.  For the past 3 years Tall Pines has been gathering at a local barn to celebrate the results of their work over the previous year.

This year, the Fall Harvest is at one of the first 16 farms chosen to participate in the PACE program to highlight the importance of working lands in Southeastern Wisconsin and across the state.  The inaugural Concert on the Farm was held at the Zwieg Maple Acres farm.  Zwieg Maple Acres is a 6th generation Dairy farm operating in Ashippun and Lebanon since 1856.

After Tall Pines worked to establish an Agricultural Enterprise Area in the Towns of Ashippun and Oconomowoc, Joe Zweig was the first landowner to step up to enroll in the PACE Program.  “He and his son, Kyle, contacted me and said they wanted to preserve their farm and do it with Tall Pines and through the PACE program,” notes Susan Buchanan, Tall Pines’ executive director.  Kyle is the 6th generation working on the farm and plans to continue the agricultural tradition.

Adds Buchanan, “This family just gets the importance of combining working lands with conservation to protect Wisconsin’s specialness.  They have an absolutely picture perfect 250-acre working farm that is a great model for PACE and, with three generations currently living on the farm, they are great spokesmen for the program.  They have hosted a variety of meetings and events on their farm for us, including our “Ride to the Barns” for the last two years.”

This year’s event featured a book signing and concert by Michael Perry and the Long Beds.  Michael was the perfect fit for an event like this.  His books, most recently, Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, chronicle the highs and lows of farm life in rural Wisconsin.

Additionally, Fall Harvest showcased local food prepared by a local chef in the town of Lebanon.  Bodhi Personal Chef and Catering specializes in sourcing local & seasonal food and in 2010 Bodhi won the Milwaukee Iron Chef Competition.  One of this year’s features will be beef burgers made from Scottish cattle raised in the area and seasonal vegetable salads.

We at Gathering Waters are very excited to announce this marquee event for Tall Pines Conservancy.  It is just another example of the great work being done by Wisconsin’s land trusts and another reminder that we can all play a role in helping protect the places that make Wisconsin special.



Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 • info@gatheringwaters.org