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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

MFAI Farm Conservation Project Nominated for Milwaukee Business Journal Real Estate Award


The project entitled Farmland Conservation through Land and Water Protection has been nominated in 3 categories: Most Environmentally Friendly Project, Best Public/Private Partnership, and Most Creative Deal of the Year. The award focuses on the best real estate deals and projects that were completed in 2016 within Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties.

The Farmland Conservation through Land and Water Protection Project, joined four organizations to a 204-acre tract of farmland in Walworth County. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased this property in 2015 from the Keske Trust, to buffer a rare fen from agricultural runoff and potential degradation by future residential development on that farmland. In 2016, TNC resold it to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) subject to an agricultural conservation easement that prevents future development and insures that agricultural practices maximize soil and water protection. This coming season, the grass waterways and kettle buffers that slow drainage from the land and prevent soil loss will be installed with the expertise and support of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Walworth County. These conservation practices will help insure that both the adjacent Pickerel Lake Fen retains its unique structure and species composition, and that the nearby Mukwonago River remains one of the cleanest, most biologically diverse streams in southeastern Wisconsin.

The Institute is transitioning the land to organic production, and in doing so, will be conducting research along the way to help determine the most economically viable strategies for producers wishing to go organic, which can often be a prohibitively expensive process. The property is large enough that research can be conducted on 15-20 acre fields that better replicate real farming challenges than do typically smaller research test plots. A key area of research will include introducing cover crop and no-till practices designed to work with the permanent conservation improvements to further reduce soil loss and ground water contamination. Combining organic farming practices with cover crops and no-till will help in restoring soil fertility, healthy soil microbe levels and soil water retention through higher organic matter levels, all which can become impaired following decades of conventional farming.

The public and private groups involved in this project feel a sense of achievement in contributing to both the economic development and quality of life for residents of the larger Milwaukee area.