During the next 18 months, Portage County will be working on its county-wide farmland preservation plan. Basically, Wisconsin requires all counties to have a plan in place that discusses how agriculture works in their communities and to present means of preserving land for agricultural use by balancing the needs of communities with those of agribusiness.
“The planning process presents us with an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about agriculture in Portage county with a wide range of community members,” notes Jeff Schuler, Portage County Planning and Zoning Director. “Agribusiness is very important to our economy — but its existence and growth depends on successfully balancing the business development needs throughout the county. For that reason, we really think that farm preservation planning is an important tool for all economic development in the county. It helps us reexamine how economic development works in Portage County and how we organize our business development resources.”
Explains Schuler, “Planning helps us reduce land use conflicts. We have to be smart about where we plan to place new neighborhoods so they don’t impinge on agribusiness. And we have to be cognizant of neighborhood and community concerns about land use as it concerns expanding and new agribusiness opportunities.”
And then there’s the aesthetics of land preservation. “The planning process also covers open natural resources — preserving the wooded areas, lakes and streams that make this region so beautiful,” notes Schuler. “In planning for farm preservation, we’re really planning for all economic development in this region. From Community Supported Agriculture and the “buy local” movements, to the recreational, urban and neighborhood concerns of residents. We need the big picture to ensure economic development benefits everyone.”