The Healthy Food Connection: Boerson Farms's Conservancy Land

Aerial view of Boerson Farm looking to the southwest with Green Lake in the background.
Photograph by Eric Ratering

During the growing season, it’s another bustling Friday afternoon at the local farmer’s market outside Green Lake Town Square. Produce growers and consumers alike, their livelihoods interconnected through soil, seed, and sustenance, recognize why this market flourishes—healthy land grows healthy food.

Organic farmers Dani and Mat Boerson from Boerson Farm extol the virtues of healthy soil as the foundation of healthy land. One teaspoon of topsoil may contain more than six billion microorganisms that underpin global cycles and ecosystem services supporting myriad biodiversity, soil formation, pollination services, water storage and purification, carbon sequestration, and climate regulation. Our quality of life and survival depends upon these services made possible by healthy land. Science informs us that sustainable land practices promote greater resiliency to environmental challenges, including climate change, invasive species, and pest infestations.

This is a story about a partnership that germinated and then grew between Boerson Farm and Green Lake Conservancy (GLC) land trust. What makes it compelling is that Boerson Farm is private conservancy land—agricultural land that is protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement held in trust by GLC.

It all started in 2013, when two co-property owners in Brooklyn Township approached GLC to explore ways to protect their 120 acres of rural land by adopting sustainable agricultural practices. Because GLC supports best management practices on farmland and holds experience protecting agricultural land by conservation easement, approximately one-half of the property was gifted to GLC. Additionally, it was determined that, for tax purposes, the remaining 64 acres would be conveyed five years later.

Photograph by Thomas L. Eddy

In 2016, facilitated by GLC, Boerson Farm acquired the remaining 64 acres and moved their farm operation from St. Marie to Brooklyn Township. Mindful of the original landowners’ intentions, Boerson Farm is now transforming the land from a traditional monoculture to a thriving polyculture that feeds people, improves soil health, and supports greater biodiversity.

Along with the legal title to the rolling fields and small woodlot came a great deal of responsibility. Caring for the soil while running a financially viable farm business is a delicate balancing act that requires long-term thinking and investments. In the fall of 2018, driveway easement, a well, electricity, and fencing were installed in accordance with the parameters established by the conservation easement. The stage was set for this parcel of land to begin producing a diverse array of crops, all while increasing the ecosystem services that are central to the work of the GLC.

The Boerson land-use plan that was developed and implemented over the previous 18 months came to fruition the following spring. Native species, including pollinators, moved in alongside farm crop plants. The regenerative practices in use at the farm are all informed by nature, taking cues from the oak savanna ecosystem that dominated this landscape for millennia. A rotational grazing pasture system occupies the majority of the farm and is managed to mimic the periodic disturbance that herds of bison once created. Predatory beetle habitat and strips of pollinator forage incorporated into the diverse vegetable field mitigate pest pressure and increase the chemical-free production of nutrient-dense crops.

A twist of fate brings the story home, or rather to a home. The original house and farmstead connected to the land had long since been parceled off from the fields. Just as the Boersons were about to start the process of building a house, the owner of the homestead approached with an offer to sell. On August 1, 2019, the farm became whole again because a community of people came together with a vision for health.

GLC’s partnership with Boerson Farm is a progressive investment in locally grown food and conservancy land that will contribute to the ecological, social, and economic well-being of our communities for many years to come.

Mat Boerson co-owns and operates Boerson Farm with his wife, Danielle. They can be found at local farm markets or at boersonfarm.com .

Thomas L. Eddy is a founding member of the Green Lake Conservancy and serves as VP for Conservation. Since 1995, GLC has offered science-based lake and watershed protection and solutions by land acquisition, gift, and conservation easement.

To learn more, visit greenlakeconservancy.org .

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