OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Ottawa County is home to over one-thousand farms that span across 171,883 acres, and because of agriculture's value to the county, it's Farmland Preservation Program works tirelessly to protect the industry.
"We want the farms to stay in Ottawa County," said Julie Lamer, the county's Farmland Preservation Analyst.
County farmers produce more than $506 million in products annually, but even so, between 2012 and 2017, the county lost 8% of its farmed acres and 17% of farms according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture.
The Farmland Preservation Program is fighting the problem through their Purchase of Development Right Program.
"The PDR program enables farmers to sell Ottawa County the development rights to their land," said Julie Lamer, "and then create permanent agricultural easements that preserve the farmland perpetuity."
"Since 2016, we've had five agricultural properties totaling 443 acres preserved," she added.
Lamer said they wish they could preserve even more, and that in the last several years, they've had applications that total more than three-thousand acres.
"There's farmers out there who want to preserve their property, but we don't have enough available funds to preserve all of the property," said Lamer, "that's why we have to have fundraisers."
Fundraisers like their annual 'Farms are the Tapas' event that pairs local chefs with local farmers to create tapas meals right in front of your eyes.
"Each of the six chefs have a wide variety of vegetables that they can choose free from Visser Farms, and they can choose any beef cut they want from Maple Hill Beef," Lamer explained, "and then they just totally create a locally sourced tapas for the participants to enjoy."
Lamer said events like this are crucial to their PDR Program, and keeping farms right here along our lakeshore.
"Locally grown food is a good resource to have, and we're so fortunate to have it here in Ottawa County," said Lamer, "we take it for granted that the fresh food is going to be here."
"We want to save our farms," she added, "my favorite saying is no farms, no food."
The Farms are the Tapas event is Thursday, September 30th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Terra Square in Hudsonville.
You can also participate in the online auction without attending the event in-person.
All of that information and how to buy tickets can be found by clicking here.
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