Community discussion on Portage County agriculture and food system
By Brandi Makuski
A new county committee is ready to present initial findings from its year-long study of county farmland.
The Farmland Preservation Plan will be presented and discussed during an open house at Sentry’s @1800 Theater on Wed., Jan. 6 at 5 PM. A discussion panel will follow at 6 PM.
The study began in early 2015, when the Portage Co. Farmland Preservation Ad Hoc Steering Committee first sat down to discuss and identify types of farming and related zoning. The committee operates under the county’s planning and zoning department.
Jeff Schuler, director of planning and zoning, said the committee satisfies a new state requirement but also pools together information, farming trends and data from all farmers in the county- everything from large operations like Del Monte to small independent properties and organic farmers.
“The (state) statue in part says we have to identify those areas in the county where we would designate as being really good for farmland, and if zoned properly those landowners would be eligible for tax credits,” Schuler said in Feburary. “So it’s really a state program where the state says, ‘You tell us where, in your county, people should be eligible for a tax break on their agricultural property’.”
Schuler referred to local agricultural is a “really, really important” aspect of the local culture and economy. The committee has been working to identify the county’s agricultural lands so they can be preserved, he said.
The discussion panel will be comprised of various citizens and representatives of the agricultural and local food system industries, as well as officials from the UWSP Center for Land Use Education and Portage County UW-Extension.
“There hasn’t been a meeting like this in Portage County for quite some time” Schuler said in December. “It’s a great opportunity for residents to come out, learn about a very important piece of Portage County’s economy, historic culture, and be able to ask whatever questions they might have about agriculture from people involved in it every day. Not to mention being able to have direct input into how the County develops its public policy. We hope a lot of people come out.”
The draft Farmland Preservation Plan can be found here.
Sentry Theater is located at 1800 Northpoint Drive. The presentation is open to the public.