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When it comes to protecting special places, the landowner is the key. I am happy to share with you that one very community-minded landowner just made some great things happen on the west side of Cherokee Marsh. 
 
On July 6, 2018,  Peg Whiteside donated to us a perpetual conservation easement over her 90-acre farm, ensuring that the land will remain available for farming even after she no longer owns it. Then she sold to us, at a discount, ten acres of land to allow a group of Hmong farmers to continue to have a place to raise vegetables and flowers. Peg told me that she is “grateful there is a way to protect her farm and also the land that the Hmong farmers have been relying on for the past 20 years.”
 
Peg’s farm sits on a hill overlooking Cherokee Marsh. It is made up of some of the best soil in the nation. It is also an important link in the landscape between Cherokee Marsh and our Westport Drumlin preserve. According to Tom Wilson, Town of Westport Administrator, “The conservation easement in the Village of Waunakee near the corner of River Road and Bong Road helps the Village and Westport meet our joint goal of maintaining open space between Waunakee and DeForest.” Even more, the conservation easement allows us to create a hiking trail that will link the marsh and the drumlin.
 
Several Hmong farmers have been long-term tenants on Peg’s farm. Knowing that minority and immigrant farmers sometimes face barriers to long-term land access, Peg turned to us to find a way for the farmers to continue to work the land after she retires from farming. Could we help? Thanks to Peg’s generosity, an anonymous donor, and a grant from the Dane County Conservation Fund (under its innovative Agriculture, Gardening, and Foraging initiative), we are able to do so by purchasing ten acres from Peg. Now we hope to work with the farmers to add a well and sheds to the property.
 
Your support makes it possible for Groundswell to pursue opportunities like these, where we use our land protection skills to help meet community needs. If you have ideas of other places we can put our land protection tools to use, please let me know. And the next time you meet a conservation-minded farmer or landowner, please thank them!

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