Preserve Farms and Farming
Working farms are an essential part of McHenry County’s rural landscape. In addition to providing fresh food to local and regional markets, farms provide wildlife habitat, buffer important bodies of water, and contribute to the overall scenic and rural character that defines our community. Protecting farms not only safeguards our natural resources and prime agricultural soils, it also helps support our local economy by maintaining a viable agricultural base.
Even though development pressure has slowed down, McHenry County farms are still at risk. With the average age of a farmer now at about 58 years old, many farmers are retiring, in many cases with no one in the family to take up the family business. Within the next 20 years, it is estimated that 46,000 acres of farmland will be lost. The good news is that there is a growing interest in local food, coupled by a new movement of young people who want to be farmers. The need to preserve the county’s prime farmland soils is critical to everyone’s future.
There are three ways that TLC works to preserve farms and farming in McHenry County: Agricultural Conservation Easements, Learning Circles for Women Farmowners, and a Farmer-Landowner Match program. Keep reading to learn more!
What is an Agricultural Conservation Easement?
One of the tools that The Land Conservancy (TLC) uses to protect farms is a voluntary conservation agreement known as an easement. This type of an easement permanently limits non-agricultural development while allowing the owner to continue living on or leasing their land, expanding their farm business, and transferring the farm to a new generation. These easements can be donated, purchased, or a combination of the two. In each scenario the financial benefits to the landowner can be substantial.
OTHER WAYS TLC HELPS PRESERVE FARMLAND
Learning Circles - Women farmland owners
Women own nearly half of the farmland in McHenry County. In many cases, they inherited it from their fathers, husbands or brothers. Additionally, many women farmowners were not involved in the business side of farming until they inherited the land. The idea behind the Learning Circles is to provide a crucial link between women farmland owners and the resources they need to achieve their conservation goals by holding women-only meetings at which they can fee free to raise questions, share challenges and get information on a wide range of resources available to them. TLC plans to hold a workshop each year to provide women farmowners access to specialists and information that will help them be good stewards of their land. Click here to learn more.
Farmer-Landowner Match Program
The Farmer Landowner Match Program's goal is to link farmers with people who have land to lease, with an emphasis on helping beginning and diversified farmers get access to the land they need. Click here for additional information.
Click here for an application if you have land and are looking for a farmer.
Click here if you are a farmer looking for land.