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Lafayette Township's sole century farm seeks preservation status from state

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LAFAYETTE TWP. — A 162-acre farm, owned by Charles and Jill Heath, has applied for farm land preservation through Ohio’s Farmland Preservation Program by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

If the Heaths are successful in their application process, it will be the third preservation farm in Medina County. The Swingle family in Litchfield Township owns the other two.

Medina County commissioners and Lafayette Township trustees both passed resolutions of support for the Heaths’ Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.

Commissioners said the agricultural easement is compatible with the county’s goals to preserve and promote agriculture as an important part of the area’s economy and does not conflict with any existing or proposed land use plans of Medina County.

The Heaths’ property, located at the intersection of Smith and Erhart roads, is the only registered century farm in Lafayette Township, Trustee Lynda Bowers said Friday. The deed shows the same family has owned the farm for more than 100 years.

“It’s a beautiful farm,” Bowers said. “Chuck’s family has a long history in the township.”

Andy McDowell, vice president of western field operations with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said the Heaths’ property will remain a farm forever and future owners cannot subdivide it.

The Heaths’ farm is valuable land in the conservancy’s preservation efforts.

“I’ve always had the goal of having more farmland preserved in Medina County.” McDowell said. “This is very nice and scenic farm.

“Farmland and agriculture is a significant part of our history and heritage. It’s part of the rural way of life. We want to retain that in the counties that have farmland.”

Both Charles and Jill Heath live at the farm, which produces soybeans and hay. They were unavailable for comment Friday.

“(They’re) a pretty dedicated family,” McDowell said.

They plan on handing down the farm to their family when the time comes, he said.

The Office of Farmland Preservation partners with landowners, local governments, soil and water conservation districts, and land trusts to permanently preserve Ohio farms in agricultural production.

The Office of Farmland Preservation implements the Clean Ohio Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program. McDowell said it’s a competitive process and the owners will receive funds up to $500,000. The program won’t pay more than $2,000 per acre.

The Heaths’ farm is one of only two that applied for preservation funds during this cycle, McDowell said. The other is in Huron County. Both will likely get allocated, he said.

McDowell said once the owners receive their money, they typically reinvest it into their farm.

In Litchfield, the Swingle family received $93,540 in the easement program for 46.77 acres in Litchfield in 2015. The following year, it received $69,530 for 47 acres.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will let the Heath family know about its application around May.

If it is approved, it will take almost two years from then for the Heaths to receive their money, McDowell said.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.
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