Foundation Backs PDR Effort

    GRAND RAPIDS — A $100,000 Grand Rapids Community Foundation grant to the Kent County Agricultural Preservation Board will help put the brakes on the area’s rapidly disappearing farmland.

    The grant, made possible in part by the Evenson Fund for the Environment, is the most recent boost to the county’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, a 10-year effort of the KCAPB to preserve approximately 25,000 acres of Kent County farmland. The program initially targets the preservation of 500 acres of prime and unique farmland in the Lowell area.

    This initial effort will cost approximately $2 million in matching funds provided by area foundations and the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. PDR is a permanent tool to protect natural resources, wildlife habitat and the rural character of the community, while compensating landowners for the value of development rights. Landowners can maintain the option of farm production, selling the land or passing it on to heirs even though the land cannot be developed.

    “The PDR is a timely, critical resource for addressing the ‘big picture’ impact of the area’s declining croplands and open spaces,” said Marcia Rapp, vice president of programs for GRCF.

    She said Kent is currently the fifth most agriculturally productive county in Michigan.

    “A comprehensive plan to preserve farmland avoids urban sprawl while promoting positive economic development,” she said.

    The grant will also assist the KCAPB in leveraging financial support from the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, which provides funds for up to 50 percent of the costs of permanently protecting prime and unique farmland using PDRs. The remaining 50 percent of funds must be secured locally. Federal funds are awarded on a statewide, competitive basis.  

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