Farming since 1853, this family just made sure their farmland remains so for decades to come

What’s happening: Officials from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Agricultural Preservation Board joined a Barry County farming family last month to celebrate the preservation of more than 400 acres of legacy farmland. The Wing family has been farming the land in Barry County for 170 years – and counting. Their participation in an agricultural preservation program means that the property will remain farmland well into the future.

Past, present, and future: Thomas Wing first emigrated to Barry County from England in 1853, where he began the now 170-year-old farming operation. Paul and Sue Wing now operate what’s become 438 acres of Wing Acres Dairy, a certified centennial farm. The Wings agreed to sell the development rights to their land to the Barry County Easement Board, which was awarded a $657,750 Agricultural Preservation Fund grant in March 2022.

What it means: It means that even if the Wings decided to sell the family farm, future purchasers would be legally required to maintain the farmland as just that, and not sell it to become, say, an industrial park, shopping center, or for other non-agricultural uses.

How it works: The Agricultural Preservation Fund manages the grants, which help local farmland preservation programs ensure that Michigan farmland is preserved for agricultural use by purchasing development rights to the land. Property owners retain all rights to their land, save for the development rights sold as a result of participating in the program. This prevents the farms from being sold and developed for non-agricultural uses while also compensating property owners for said rights.

Why it’s important: "Farming isn't just their career choice and how they pay their bills, it's an integral part of this family's DNA and now it will also be part of the long-term legacy of Michigan farming," says Tim Boring, MDARD Director. "I am honored to join the Agricultural Preservation Fund Board honoring Paul Wing and his family for supporting Michigan agriculture and for a lifetime of dedication to conserving and protecting agricultural properties for future generations."

The application window for the next round of Agricultural Preservation Fund grants is expected to open later this month, more information of which is available on the APF and MDARD website.

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