According to co-founder Lisa Gottlieb, the IRS approval of Selma’s 501(c)3 application came late last week. Artrain, an Ann Arbor nonprofit that took on fiscal sponsorship of the cafe in early June, will transfer about $43,000 in cash assets back to a Selma Cafe account …
Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Dec. 8, 2010): Here’s one thing that greenbelt commissioners learned at their Wednesday meeting: Washtenaw County contains 166,881 acres of farmland, yet the county ranks low on an index that gauges an area’s ability to produce enough food to meet the needs of local residents.
Staff gave an overview of agricultural production statewide and in Washtenaw County, with the goal of providing some context as commissioners consider how to support local farmland within the greenbelt. It’s an issue that’s emerged frequently at previous GAC meetings, and one that the commission’s chair, Jennifer S. Hall, said they’ll be continuing to address in the coming months.
Farmland also played a role in reaching a milestone announced later in the meeting: With the recent acquisition of development rights for the Ledwidge Farm in Webster Township, the greenbelt program has completed its first 1,000-acre block of protected open space. The news prompted a round of applause from commissioners.
Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Nov. 10, 2010): At this month’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved forming a subcommittee to explore possible changes to the existing boundary of the greenbelt district. Led by GAC vice chair Dan Ezekiel, the group will look for ways to protect properties that might be appropriate for the greenbelt, but that lie just outside of the current district. A similar effort in 2007 resulted in bumping out the boundary by a mile.
Noting that this was the second time they’d looked at the issue, GAC chair Jennifer S. Hall suggested exploring other ways that the greenbelt program might achieve the same result, but that wouldn’t involve regularly moving the program’s fixed boundary.
Another theme of the meeting was local food. Two local food advocates – Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe – gave a presentation about their work raising money to fund construction of hoop houses at local farms. Gottlieb and McCabe host the weekly Selma Cafe, a breakfast gathering every Friday morning at their home that regularly draws more than 120 people. Commissioner Dan Ezekiel praised their work, and GAC chair Jennifer S. Hall expressed the hope that they could find ways to work together in the future.
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to recommend an agreement with Webster Township, which is offering to contribute $50,000 to the purchase of development rights for the 146-acre Whitney farm. The city council has already agreed to pay $707,122 toward that purchase.
Greenbelt program manager Ginny Trocchio reported that the city has closed on the 51-acre Gould property, adjacent to the recently protected 286-acre Braun farm – both farms are located in Ann Arbor Township. The Braun acquisition bumped the greenbelt program over the 2,000-acre mark, she said – about 2,200 acres are now part of the greenbelt. The Brauns have agreed to open their property for a celebration in the coming months.
In other action, GAC voted unanimously to set public commentary rules in alignment with other city boards and commissions. And Hall noted that two vacancies will be opening up next year on GAC – she encouraged local residents who might be interested in serving on the commission to attend some of their meetings, or talk to their city councilmember about their interest.
The commission also got an update from city treasurer Matt Horning, who was responding to questions that commissioners had raised regarding a drop in investment income on the latest year-end financial statement.
The Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission meeting (Sept. 8, 2010): At their September meeting, commissioners got a financial update on the city’s greenbelt program, reviewing unaudited statements from fiscal 2009-10.
Financial manager Kelli Martin reported that revenues from the 30-year open space and parkland preservation millage, which funds the greenbelt as well as land acquisition for parks, were $2.262 million in FY10. Combined with grants and other sources, total revenues for the year reached $3.413 million.
Some commissioners questioned a sharp drop in investment income – from $815,261 last year to $130,011 in FY 2010 – and Martin agreed to ask Matt Horning, the city’s treasurer, for a more detailed report on that issue.
Total expenditures rose 19% to $5.087 million, an increase mostly attributable to greenbelt projects – $3.427 million spent during FY10, compared to $2.641 million in FY 2009. The program bought development rights to three properties during the fiscal year: the Nixon farm in Webster Township, the Girbach farm Lodi Township, and the Webster Church property in Webster Township.
The Sept. 8 meeting began with a presentation by two representatives of Real Time Farms, who asked the commission to help them market their business – an online guide to local foods.
Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission meeting (March 10, 2010): After hearing from Ann Arbor Township supervisor Mike Moran, and meeting in closed session with Mary Fales of the city attorney’s office, commissioners passed a resolution of support for the acquisition of development rights on the Braun and Gould properties in Ann Arbor Township.
These deals have been in the works for more than two years. The city has binding purchase agreements with the owners based on appraisals taken when land values were higher. New appraisals, required to get funds from a federal program, came in with much lower values. That means fewer-than-expected federal funds will be available, and the city would be required to come up with the difference.
Saying that Ann Arbor Township was their partner, Moran urged commissioners to support the purchase of development rights. He called the Braun farm a “poster child” for the township’s land preservation movement, and said it would be a significant error to reject the deal simply because of the new appraisals.
Later in the meeting, commissioners also got an update on committee work being done to help support small farms in the greenbelt.
The main topic of discussion for the Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission’s November meeting could be distilled into this: How can the greenbelt program support the development of small farms, and ensure that farm properties remain farms, even when the property changes ownership?
It’s an unlikely resource that might actually be able to help answer those questions: the federal housing programs administered by the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city department.
Jennifer Hall, OCD housing program coordinator, attended the Nov. 4 meeting of the greenbelt group and floated some ideas for how federal funding might provide resources to retain land for the farming community.
The commission also heard from the managing organization of the greenbelt program, The Conservation Fund, about strategies for preserving small farms.
Five years ago, Alex Young spent his days trying to get Zingerman’s Roadhouse up and open. A long-time chef, Young signed on as manager and chef there, moving his family to a farm outside Dexter.
But on his one day off each week, he picked up a shovel and started his garden. Every week, he dug one row, laboriously turning up deep layers of soil, trading physical labor for the stress of embarking on the new business venture.
That spring, Young wore out the heavy sole of his boot from the edge of the shovel and had a dozen rows in his 75-by-75-foot garden.
“It was a stress reducer,” he says now, and he still sees the calming and even meditative side of growing food as that garden sprouted into Cornman Farms, a business that still is growing.
The Chronicle arrived midway through Thursday’s day-long Local Food Summit 2009, and found evidence of the morning’s work plastered all over the walls of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens conference room: Colorful sticky notes on butcher paper, categorized by topics like “Food policy/legislation,” “Resources for young/new farmers,” “Distribution,” “Heritage” and “Community Self Reliance.”
Each note listed a resource, idea or goal, and together represented hundreds of ways to strengthen and expand this region’s local food system. About 120 people had gathered to focus on that topic, and organizers hope the momentum from Thursday’s event will transform the way our community thinks about food, and in turn transform the health of residents and our local economy.
The Greenbelt Advisory Commission met Wednesday, spending about 45 minutes in their public meeting before going into a closed session to discuss land preservation proposals.
Field trip: The first major item on the agenda was a presentation by Peg Kohring, Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, which manages the city’s greenbelt program. She gave a brief talk about the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, describing it as a think-and-do tank focused on local land use and food systems. Kohring said that she, city staffer Ginny Trocchio and Susan Lackey of the Washtenaw Land Trust made a trip to northeast Ohio to take an up-close look at this organization, and glean ideas that might be applicable to the Ann Arbor area.