March 21 ē 06:02 AM

Couple preserveslove of farmland

Thrifts sign over development rights to county's farmland preservation program

Landowners Doris and J.W. Thrift (far right) sign documents donating the development rights on 44 acres to Lapeer County. Commission Chairman Dave Taylor adds his signature and Almont Twp. Clerk Carol Hoffner notarizes the deal. photo by Maria Brown.
September 12, 2007
ALMONT TWP. — Five years after adopting Michigan's first ever farmland preservation ordinance, Lapeer County officials welcomed the program's first participants Monday.

At a special ceremony at their Bishop Rd. home, J.W. and Doris Thrift signed over the development rights to 44.7 acres of their land.

"In our hearts, we know it's the right thing to do," J.W. said.

"Hopefully, others will take notice of what's going on around them."

In the 40 years that they've lived and farmed just south of General Squier Rd. the Thrifts have found themselves surrounded by new housing developments. With a love for the land and concern for the future of agriculture, they turned to the Lapeer County Agricultural Preservation Board.

The board and Citizens for Farmland Preservation and Quality Growth were happy to be on hand to mark the milestone.

Louis Martus of the preservation board commended the Thrifts for "thinking of this county and community" with their donation.

"It's pretty hard to go back to farming once you've black topped over the land," Martus added.

The Thrifts, with their two teenaged daughters, moved from Warren to the Almont area 40 years ago.

"We both loved the country," Doris said.

Soon, they settled into raising beef cattle, corn and hay. Since retiring from full-time work, they rent the land to another farmer and cattle still graze in a field behind their home.

"I love watching the calves," Doris said with a smile.

The couple retains all rights of ownership to the land, save for development. They will also have the chance to accept the donated value as an income tax write-off, Tom Valentine, technical advisor to the preservation board, explained.

There are six other conservation easements in northern Lapeer County but those are held through the state's purchase of development rights program.

Rich Harlow of the Michigan Department of Agriculture explained that after establishing temporary means to protect farmland, including Public Act 116, the state sought more permanent measures.

"The state decided it was best to make those decisions at the local level," Harlow said of purchasing development rights.

Representatives from Almont Twp., the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners, Lapeer Conservation District, Lapeer County Farm Bureau, Sporting Lands Alliance and Michigan State University Extension. Sen. Jud Gilbert's office and Rep. John Stahl also participated in Monday's event.

To learn more about the county's farmland preservation program, contact Tom Valentine at 664-3941, ext. 3.

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Castle Creek
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