Jefferson – Two new farms have joined 600 farms in Jefferson County enrolled in the Farmland Preservation Program, bringing the preserved land to a total 80 percent of Jefferson County’s farm land.
In this program, farmers receive property tax credits for using conservation practices to protect topsoil and preserve farmland from development.
Just recently, two farm families also placed agricultural conservation easements on their farms through the County’s PACE program, ensuring their land will be available for agriculture in perpetuity.
Greg Wilke’s family has been farming in the Waterloo area since the 1870s. In 1989, his father, Gordon, bought the 162-acre farm Greg now owns and where he raises steers and cash crops.
Wilke recently retired all the development rights on his farm, ensuring the land will be available for farming well into the future.
When asked why he decided to give up the right to develop residential or commercial lots on his farm, Wilke said, “We always wanted it to stay in farming, so it can’t be developed.”
Jefferson County completed the easement process on the Wilke farm with technical assistance from the Natural Heritage Land Trust of Madison
Cliff and Sue Haberman also wanted to see their farm stay in agriculture, and they made that possible through the Jefferson County PACE program.
“We want to see our farm stay like it is,” Haberman said. “It has been in the family for generations.”
The Haberman family came to the Town of Waterloo from Bohemia and were one of the first original settlers in the 1840s, receiving a deed from the U.S. government.
The family milked cows for many years and produce corn, soybeans and hay and also raise beef steers and dairy heifers. The Habermans have always been involved in draft and pulling horses, and their son Mitch raises Belgians.
The Haberman farm also has a large wetland and wet forest area bordering the Waterloo Wildlife Area.
Through this conservation easement, the family also gave up the right to develop residential or commercial lots on their farm. Under this program, the family also agrees to conserve soil, water quality and unique natural areas.
Conservation and nutrient management plans are in place on both of these farms and others involved in the county’s agricultural conservation easement program.
The easement on the Haberman farm is monitored annually by the Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department.
Jefferson County has been a leader in working lands preservation through innovative land-use planning and zoning ordinances.
Funding for both farm projects came through the USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement program, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Jefferson County. Funds to protect farmland were set aside when land belonging to the county farm was sold to build the STH 26 Jefferson by-pass.
Since 2008, the Jefferson County Farmland Conservation Easement Commission has worked with seven landowners to retire 27 residential development rights and permanently protect 1,135 acres of farmland through both donated and paid easements.