“They don’t make more land.”

First-generation farmer permanently preserves 147 acres of prime farmland in Huron County

Erik Kernell and his father, Jeff, recently worked with the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, to ensure 147 acres of Huron County farmland remain farmland forever.

In December 2017, Kernell and his father donated conservation easements on two properties located in Clarksfield and Townsend Townships in Huron County. The respective 77-acre and 70-acre properties are planted in a standard rotation of crops including corn, soybeans, and wheat. They are part of Kernell’s larger 2,000+ acre farm operation.

A conservation easement is an agreement entered into between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land to preserve its conservation or agricultural resource values in perpetuity, explained Andy McDowell, vice president of western field operations for the Land Conservancy. Easements are permanent and run with the land.

Seeing farm after farm developed, Kernell had always hoped to find a program that preserved farmland. “I can’t stand seeing houses built on former farms and prime farmland developed,” he emphasized. “They don’t make more land.”

Kernell intends to conserve additional properties with the help of the Land Conservancy. He was introduced to the organization’s farmland preservation work by neighbor and mentor, Scott Butts. The Butts family began working with the Land Conservancy in 2013 and has preserved more than 800 acres of farmland to date.

Butts inspired Kernell to pursue a career in farming, for which he is extremely grateful. “As a first-generation farmer, I cannot give enough thanks to those people that have believed in me and supported this dream. For any young person, it is hard to start a farm operation. I’ve been lucky to have the right people by my side,” he said. Kernell and his wife, Kelsey, have four young children that he hopes will continue farming. “I’ve been able to knock out a lot of the first-generation obstacles to this farming operation, and I hope that my children will continue to build upon it.”

The conservation easements on these properties add to the significant land conservation efforts in Huron County, where the Land Conservancy has partnered with landowners to permanently preserve more than 6,000 acres.

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