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Serving: MI
PROTECTED: The American Farmland Trust helps protect farms from urban development.

Love Fund helps protect 2 farms in Michigan

A gift from farmers Ellen and Owen Love helps drive farmland protection in the state.

A farm in Emmet County and another in Kent County were recently protected from development with a permanent conservation easement. The farmland was saved with support from American Farmland Trust’s Owen and Ellen Love Family Farmland Protection Fund. The  Love Fund helps Michigan communities and land trusts permanently protect farmland.

The two farms protected include the 84-acre Crothers Farm in Resort Township, Emmet County, a partnership with the Little Traverse Conservancy and other groups, and the Bradford family dairy farm, a project in conjunction with Kent County’s Agricultural Preservation Board.

Both projects were supported by the Love Fund, launched after Owen and Ellen Love donated their 660-acre farm outside Climax to AFT. The lifelong farmers cared passionately about the future of agriculture and wanted to be a model for other farmers to follow.

In accordance with the Loves’ wishes, AFT protected their farm with an agricultural conservation easement after the couple died and sold it in 2010 to a local farm family, with proceeds establishing the Love Fund.

Thanks to the Love Fund and the work of local officials and land trusts like the Little Traverse Conservancy, the Crothers farm is now protected. Run by Eleanor, Robert and Benjamin Crothers, all in their 70s, the farm has high-quality, desirable soils for crop production but is in the path of development. “We do not like the idea of this farm ever being built up,” Eleanor says.

Resort Township also contributed to the project, marking the first time that local funding was applied to the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement in Emmet County. 

“The Crothers Farm project honors the vision of the Love family by permanently protecting critical farmland that would otherwise be at risk of development,” says John Piotti, president of AFT. “Conserving this land is a prime example of how AFT works with local communities and committed land trust partners. Crothers Farm is part of AFT’s broader efforts to support farmland protection in Michigan. We hope this project catalyzes additional farmland protection projects in Emmet County and beyond.”

A second grant from the Love Fund will also provide the dedicated funding needed for Kent County’s Agricultural Preservation Board to complete the protection of the Bradford Farm, a modernized family dairy located in a region threatened by encroaching development from Grand Rapids, one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities.

In recent years, the Love Fund has supported the protection of key farms in Michigan, located in western Michigan’s fruit belt, which runs from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Grand Traverse Bay over 250 miles to the north.

Among the most diverse and productive agricultural regions in the world, the fruit belt’s sandy soils and unique microclimate make it an ideal environment for growing apples, berries and stone fruits.

For information about the Love Fund or on donating a conservation easement to AFT, contact Ben Kurtzman at 413-586-9330, ext. 12, or For more information about leaving a gift of land or other options for your farm or ranch, contact Jerry Cosgrove at 518-281-5074 or

Source: AFT


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