In Your NeighborhoodMason - Leslie - Dansville - Stockbridge


Uprooted: The New and Uncertain Future for Family Farms in Leslie Township

Wax Pepper Harvest Patrick Family Farm
Posted at 8:46 AM, Aug 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-22 17:01:49-04

LESLIE, Mich. — Leslie Township is known as a Mid-Michigan hub for farming with more than half of its limits zoned for agricultural use. However the long hours, low profit margins, and new solar and wind zoning proposals may be pushing some family farms in a different direction.

"Farmland has a terrible return on investment usually because most farming practices are not entirely profitable because most farming practices are huge. I think the USCA had some old stats, over a hundred acres of land they make maybe a couple hundred bucks an acre of profit per year," said Patrick Family Farm owner Carl Patrick.

The Leslie Planning Commission has been working on a new proposal to update city ordinances that were place in 2018. Their hope is to bring new renewable energy sources by using some agriculture zones for solar panels. The new form of energy will benefit City of Leslie residents by increasing the amount of natural energy for consumers.

"We're very concerned about preserving the agricultural way of life in Leslie Township and we would like to see that continue. On the same hand we also understand that some land owners would like to be able to benefit from the new technology demand from the solar," said Leslie Township Supervisor Dallas Henney.

The new proposal would allow land owners to lease out their farm land to solar power companies. However, this creates a problem for smaller farmers who rely on corporate land to raise their crops. And with the new competition they may become priced out of the market, as solar companies can offer 10 times the profit for land owners.

"The markets going to just naturally take over anyway we should have to be forcing people to do this or using, or uh strongly encouraging through local planning meetings and trying to get neighbors against neighbor to buy into it," said Patrick.

Creating a need for a new way of farming. Now backyard farms like the 11-acre Patrick Farm are emerging.

"Smaller farms can make thousands of dollars of profit per acre per year. But it takes a lot of time and effort. So I think, I really wanted to make some profit off land and uh have something that uh you know build something with my own two hands, it's a great feeling," said Patrick.

Patrick started his farm five years ago. He still works a day job, and finds time to work the land with his wife. This weeks harvest peppers they'll sell at the local farmers market

"People should grow more of their own food, it's grueling and it takes a lot of time just to produce enough tomatoes that might give you sauce for a couple months if that. And people once they start gardening they'll really have a deeper appreciation for farmers in general," said Patrick.

The Leslie Township Board of Trustee's will be voting on the new solar and wind farm proposals September 6, at 6 p.m.

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Hannah McIlree

5:13 PM, Nov 14, 2022

Mason, Leslie

Neighborhood Reporter

Hannah McIlree