Ursulines preserve 83 acres of farmland

February 11th, 2010    Author: Staff Report    Filed Under: Community

The Ursuline Sisters of Brown County on Jan. 29 granted an Agricultural Easement to the Southern Ohio Farmland Preservation Association (SOFPA) which will ensure that 83.368 acres of agricultural property in the village of St. Martin will remain available for agriculture forever.

The Ursuline Sisters have owned the property for more than 160 years and the 83 acres surrounds Chatfield College and the long-time motherhouse of the Brown County Ursulines. The signing of the easement culminates a process of several years in which the sisters sought to ensure their legacy is preserved.

Present at the signing of agricultural easement from the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County to the SOFPA were, seated from left, Jerry Schwallie, President of SOFPA; Sister Patricia Homan, Congregational Minister, Brown County Ursulines; Patrick Hornschemeier, Attorney for SOFPA; back row, Sister Phyllis Kemper, Sister Ruth Podesta, Sister Mary Paul Walsh, and Sister Agatha Fitzgerald.
In their Legacy Statement of March 21, 2009, they stated; "Our land is holy ground supporting efforts to experience and share the love of God in a myriad of ways...We value the agricultural potential of the land and the interdependence we share with the people in the surrounding towns and countryside and with Chatfield College. Proposed projects consistent with our mission for the betterment of the individual must also respect the land assuring its preservation and its unfolding potentials."

The agricultural easement will ensure that no residential or industrial development may occur on the land but that it will be available for a wide range of agricultural uses. The hope is that it will serve as a catalyst to keep Northern Brown County a strong agricultural area.

SOFPA was enthusiastic about joining in the effort of the sisters. SOFPA is a local non-profit corporation headquartered in Georgetown which works with land owners who wish to preserve their land from development. Under an agricultural easement, SOFPA has the legal right to insist that there will never be commercial, industrial, or residential development on the acreage involved. SOFPA now holds agricultural easements in Adams, Brown, and Clermont Counties and is also available to assist farm owners in Highland County.

According to Jerry Schwallie, SOFPA President, landowners who decide to restrict the future development of their property usually do so for two reasons. Like the Ursuline Sisters, they have a strong desire that their land remain open and available for agriculture forever. Other landowners, however, will be disposed to grant an agricultural easement because of the potential financial benefits either from the tax deduction that can come from donating to a non-profit corporation the right to insist that the land never be developed, or from cash payments that may be available through the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Landowners who want more information about easement donation may contact Patrick Hornschemeier, Attorney for SOFPA, at (937) 378-4769 for a free, no-obligation informational session.
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