Conserving the land

Agricultural districts help
preserve Oldham County heritage

Waldeck Mansion in Crestwood is in the program

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

A year after purchasing his 1,440-acre farm in 1984, David Gleason knew he wanted to preserve his land from future urban development. Waldeck Farm in Crestwood, Ky., is just one of 11 agricultural districts in the county that are “serious about agriculture,” he said.

David Gleason

David Gleason

Gleason joined the Agricultural District Program in October 1985. At the time, the city of Crestwood was considering annexing the farm to become a part of the city. That would mean constructing a road through his property. Enrolling in the program was added protection against development and annexation because he knew he wanted the farm to be involved in agricultural production on a long-term basis.
When he began farming the property, Gleason raised registered Angus cattle. He now primarily produces corn, soybeans, hay and wheat. His home, the Waldeck Mansion, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, adding credentials to his preservation efforts.
The purpose of the Agricultural District Program is to provide a resource to protect and enhance agricultural land as a viable segment of the states’ economy and as a natural resource, officials say. Participants try to minimize the conversion of some of the states’ best agricultural land for urban development.
Many land owners want to conserve their land to “make a statement to the area around them,” said Kurt Mason, USDA NRCS District Conservationist for Oldham, Jefferson and Bullitt counties. There are currently 426 certified agricultural districts in Kentucky containing approximately 381,429.07 acres. Seventy-three counties participate, with the three largest agricultural districts located in Christian, Hickman and Woodford counties.
Gleason said he has “always been into preservation.” He credits fellow Oldham County farmer Mark Timmons with bringing the program to his attention.

Waldeck Mansion

Photo by Helen McKinney

Waldeck Mansion in Crestwood is part
of an agricultural district, which helps
to preserve it from development.

The Agricultural District Program is a result of the Agricultural District Law, passed by Kentucky’s General Assembly on July 15, 1982. Original legislation arose from the Agricultural Land Study and Policy Committee, formed in 1981 by then-Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.
This law states that a landowner or group of landowners can petition their local conservation district to form as an agricultural district. The land must be used for the production of livestock or poultry, and for raising tobacco or other agricultural crops.
“There has to be a minimum of 250 contiguous acres to start a district,” said Mason. The state Conservation Commission and the local water and conservation district board administer the program.
Each landowner within a district must have at least 10 acres without a homestead on the land or 11 acres with a homestead. If the land is used for horticultural purposes, there must be five acres without a homestead
There are several benefits for landowners who enroll in the program, and different levels of protection are also offered. “It allows them to make a good statement as to their intentions to use their land for agricultural purposes,” said Mason.
One major benefit, as in Gleason’s case, is that a landowner’s land cannot be annexed. The land is also eligible for differential assessment by the local Property Valuation Administrator.
If a state project affects the land, there has to be a public hearing, and the state has to provide viable reasons for going through the land, Mason said. This program has contributed to protecting many family farms across the state.
Every five years, landowners in the district must go through a re-certification process to determine if they want to commit to an ongoing agricultural enterprise for another five years.
“We are currently in the process of completing the paperwork for the certification of our 11th district. That will bring the total acres in Oldham County enrolled in the program to 7,664 acres,” said Shauna Buchert, District Program Coordinator for the Oldham County Conservation District.
A big percentage of the enrolled land in Oldham County is related to some type of lifestyle choice, said Mason. A significant amount of land has been added in the Brownsboro area relating to livestock and horses.
Mason credits these upsurges to the recent restructuring of Oldham County’s Comprehensive Plan and the inclusion of designated acreage that contains rural character.

• For more information about the program, visit: www.conservation.ky.gov/programs/agdistrict.

Back to October 2007 Articles.



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