A 253-acre working grain farm in Fayette County has been permanently protected by an agricultural easement barring future development.
An agricultural easement is a voluntary and legally-binding restriction placed on a farm. The easement limits the use of the land to predominantly agricultural activity. The land remains under private ownership and management and stays on the tax rolls under Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV). The farmland can be sold or passed along as a gift to others at any time, but the restriction prohibiting non-agricultural development stays with the land.
The Jess and Jami Sears Farm, located on Pleasant View Road in Jefferson Township, is now permanently preserved for agricultural use under an easement held by the Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District (Fayette SWCD) and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). This corn and soybean farm was preserved under the state’s Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP), a statewide, farmland-protection initiative administered by ODA using money from the Clean Ohio Fund.
Landowners must apply for Clean Ohio funds through “local sponsors.” Once these local sponsors are certified, they have the ability to submit applications on a landowner’s behalf to ODA for consideration.
Chet Murphy, director of Fayette SWCD, said his organization worked with the Sears family and ODA beginning early in 2016 to enter the farm into the program.
“This is the second farm in Fayette County that has been preserved under this program, joining a similarly-sized farm that was protected in 2016. The Sears Farm is over 500 acres, which made it too large for the available funding. We were able to split the farm into two applications using a Large Farm Exception granted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. An offer was made on the second application in 2017. We hope to close on that offer later this year.”
The agricultural easement’s value is determined by using a points-based appraisal method. This method uses the county auditor’s CAUV to establish a base value modified by the auditor’s three-year appraisal and takes into consideration the farm’s specific farmland preservation attributes.
“The family felt strongly that this farm must be protected in perpetuity to preserve not only the history of Jefferson Township, but also the agricultural heritage of Fayette County,” Murphy said. “It’s always rewarding to help protect someone’s family land but it’s especially gratifying when it’s a farm that has such dedicated owners like the Sears family.”
The farm extended into Madison County. Therefore, resolutions of support were required from the respective Boards of Township Trustees and Boards of County Commissioners in both Fayette and Madison counties. Murphy expressed his thanks to District Administrator Julia Cumming at the Madison SWCD for her assistance in obtaining the resolutions in Madison County. He also thanked Joni Merritt at CS Title, Inc. for her work in completing the necessary title search and other legal documentation.
Applications for the 2018 round of LAEPP funding are currently being accepted at the Fayette SWCD office. The deadline to apply is Feb. 23, 2018.
Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District was founded in 1947 as a political subdivision of the State of Ohio. It is governed by a locally-elected board of five supervisors. Its mission is to address local natural resource concerns through technical assistance and education. For more information about Fayette SWCD programs in general or LAEPP in particular, call 740-636-0279.