Little Traverse Conservancy announces the first voluntary, township-based Purchase of Development Rights project ever to occur within its five-county area. The 84-acre Crothers Farm will remain prime farmland forever.

Located just down the road from the Village of Bay Harbor and Petoskey, Resort Township has been experiencing rapid growth and development pressure for decades. It is a beautiful area to visit and an especially desirable place to live and raise a family. Which is why in 2011, the township created a Farmland and Open Space Protection Ordinance, which has since been supported with the creation of a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program administered by the Township’s Planning Commission.

Neighboring landowner and Resort Township trustee Paul Schemanski first told the Crother siblings about the township’s opportunity to purchase development rights from local farmland. “We talked about it and it sounded good to us,” Eleanor says. “We do not like the idea of this farm ever being built up.”

In 1948, Glenn and Marie Crothers established their farm along Camp Daggett Road and raised their four children on the land. Throughout the farm’s history, the land was managed for crops, hay, beef cattle and timber. The children walked two miles each way to the local one-room schoolhouse—The Carpenter School—until transferring to Petoskey schools after sixth grade. Before purchasing their first tractor, the Crothers used draft horses to do most of their work. Daughter Eleanor recalls the last team they had: Prince and Maude.

In the early 1990s, Glenn and Marie left the farm to their children Eleanor, Robert and Benjamin, who run the farm together today. The 84 acres are comprised of open pasture with views of both Walloon Lake and Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. The siblings still manage a small beef cattle herd and have selectively harvested 16 acres of forested land over the years. The soils are considered very high quality and desirable for crop production. Eleanor maintains a small garden which yields beautiful tomatoes and flowers.

The Crothers Farm was voluntarily submitted for consideration for the PDR program last spring and received unanimous support for funding from the Resort Township Planning Commission and the Township Board of Trustees. Criteria for selection and recommendation include the percentage of the parcel supporting prime or unique soils, forest land, threat of development, viewshed protection and parcel size.

“This type of township-based partnership has existed for years in areas such as Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, and we have wanted to help make it happen up here for decades,” says Kieran Fleming, executive director of the Little Traverse Conservancy. “Resort Township has been on board for a long time, but all the parts had to come together to identify the right property and complete the funding to get the program off the ground.”

Resort Township residents established the ordinance with the goal of using Township funds to help preserve the area for future generations, explains Ed Stokel, Resort Township Vice Chair. The PDR has been funded with taxpayer approval and supported by several Township Boards. “This is a beautiful piece of property that will remain prime farmland in perpetuity, thanks to the initiative and donation of the Crothers family,” Stokel says.

“With the ordinance in place, funding was the next concern,” Fleming says. “Fortunately, the Americana Foundation and American Farmland Trust were a great match for this partnership. Both funders have been incredibly patient and resilient while we worked with changing parcels and an evolving process.”

“The Crothers Farm project honors the vision of the Love Fund donors by permanently protecting critical farmland that would otherwise be at risk for development,” says John Piotti, president of American Farmland Trust. “Conserving this land is a prime example of how AFT works with local communities and committed land trust partners like Little Traverse Conservancy. Crothers Farm is part of AFT’s broader efforts to support farmland protection and demonstrate the effective use of agricultural conservation easements in Michigan. We hope this project catalyzes additional farmland protection projects in Emmet County and beyond.”

The Crothers farmland preservation effort has provided momentum to seek additional funding sources, partnerships and other interested landowners. For more information about the PDR program, please contact Little Traverse Conservancy at 231.347.0991.

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows a landowner to limit the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private ownership. The easement is signed by the landowner (who is the easement donor), and the Conservancy (who is receiving the easement). The Conservancy accepts the easement with the understanding it must enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity. After the easement is signed, it’s recorded with the County Register of Deeds and applies to all future owners.

Another way to visualize a conservation easement is to think of owning land as holding a bundle of sticks. Each one of these sticks represents the landowner’s right to do something with their property. Building a house, extracting minerals, leasing the property, passing it to heirs and hunting are all rights a landowner has. A landowner may give up certain development rights, or sticks from the bundle, through a document called a conservation easement.

Little Traverse Conservancy

Since 1972, the Little Traverse Conservancy has been working as the oldest regional, non-profit land trust in Michigan. With the support of nearly 4,000 members, the Little Traverse Conservancy works with private landowners and units of local government to permanently protect ecologically-significant and scenic lands from development. To date, nearly 60,000 acres and 147 miles of shoreline along the region’s lakes, rivers and streams have been set aside to remain in their natural state within Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Mackinac and Chippewa counties. Over 100 trails are maintained throughout the organization’s preserves for nature-based recreation. For more information about the Little Traverse Conservancy and land protection options for your land, please contact their office at 231.347.0991 or visit

—Provided by the Little Traverse Conservancy

Environmental Preservation in Northern Michigan

Photo(s) by Todd Parker