Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 07/25/2021

ACRES Vision for Working Lands

That 594 acres of ACRES land will be farmed this year often surprises people.

However, none of the farmland we currently own will be preserved as farmland in perpetuity: eventually, all the fields will be converted to natural systems. In the meantime, we cash-rent the farmland, a practice that generates income for land management activities. We require the tenant farmers to meet all best management practices, including using continuous no-till practices and cover crops.

ACRES would preserve land in perpetual agricultural production if the land donor requested this. In fact, we are eager to find such a donor. ACRES values the role of agriculture within our service area and would like to always stay an active manager of farmland. ACRES offers the donor of agricultural land the ability to preserve a family farm forever—not just for the next generation or two—and the assurance that the fields will be responsibly managed.

ACRES preserves Claxton Woods, a 93-acre timber stand donated by Bill and Shirley Claxton.

All of the farmland now owned by ACRES was acquired as part of a larger natural area. For example, a “back 40” was purchased or donated as part of a larger 100-acre tract of forest. Most of our fields are small. We currently have 15 fields in production, with an average field size of 40 acres. The number of acres farmed each year varies as we acquire new fields and restore existing ones. Over the past 10 years, the farmed fields have varied from 365 to 673 acres.

Our preference would be to own larger tracts of agricultural land so we could restore the smaller fields currently in production. If we had one 600-acre field, rather than fifteen 40-acre fields, we’d earn the same (or more) income, be much more efficient, and be able to more quickly convert the small fields into natural systems. This would expand the habitats of the preserves, of which the small fields are a part.

ACRES Land Management Director Evan Hill plants 20 species of native grasses and flowering plants at Founders Forest, a closed preserve where ACRES is restoring a former agricultural field to a prairie habitat.

Farming families tend to be supporters of ACRES. Like ACRES, these families know, work on, care for and love land. Some choose to donate the natural areas of their farms to ACRES. Many may not have considered that ACRES would also be interested in preserving their farmland.

When families donate their farmland to ACRES, they have preserved the farm forever, ACRES receives a perpetual income, and the land is well cared for. Those acres help protect natural areas by allowing us to eventually restore (return to nature) our currently farmed fields that are part of nature preserves.

ACRES has been in the farming business for decades, and we plan to remain so for centuries and millenniums.

To explore options for preserving your farmland forever, contact ACRES Executive Director Jason Kissel at 260-637-2273 ext. 102 or [email protected].