“This is how social change ultimately happens: enlightened values do not change behavior; the contours of self-interest are altered and new values rush into the vacuum.”
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Wisconsin Purchase of Agricultural Easements
In 2004 the Town of Bayfield was the second community in Wisconsin to establish a Farmland Preservation Program. Farmland preservation arose in response to local citizens prioritizing preservation of rural character in its Comprehensive Plan. To implement the program, Town of Bayfield partnered with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy to help secure funding to establish and purchase farmland preservation easements on private farmland.
Farmland Preservation Easements are permanent deed restrictions that landowners voluntarily place on their property to preserve the agricultural value of their land. The landowner continues to own and use the land, however the easement prevents the landowner from developing the protected land for nonagricultural purposes. Through an agricultural conservation easement, the landowner essentially sells the right to develop the property. An agricultural conservation easement can enable a landowner to get some equity out of his property while still being able to farm the land. The Bayfield Regional Conservancy co-holds Bayfields Farmland Easements with the Town of Bayfield.
_Wisconsin Farmland is at Risk
Conversion of farmland to other uses has taken its toll on Wisconsin farmland:
 Source: Program on Agricultural Technology Studies Land Use Fact Sheet, May 2004, UW-Madison and UW-Extension.
 USDA NRCS Natural Resources Inventory, 2010.
_Why is it important to protect farmland?
Protecting Farmland is a Wise Investment
Agritourism is a large part of the Bayfield local economy. Bayfield’s orchard district is a tourism destination and includes a diversity of blueberry, raspberry, cherry, strawberry and apple orchards. The Bayfield Apple Festival is one of the largest festivals in the state of Wisconsin attracting 40,000 visitors to the area, annually, for its 3-day duration.
Farmland preservation is key to the long-term viability of fruit farming on the Bayfield Peninsula, where the Lake Superior induced microclimate makes it an ideal local for fruit growing. High land values make it all but impossible for new farmers to set up shop in the area or for the next generation of farmers to afford the cost of land. When development rights are sold, the farmer is compensated for the value of those rights and the value of the land decreases concomitantly, making the land more affordable for future farmers.