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Farmington to lease future park land for farming

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHERSpecial to the Star Tribune
  • December 28, 2012 - 6:00 PM

It's farmland that will one day be part of an expansive park.

But there's no reason it can't generate a yield now, Farmington leaders say.

The city hopes to raise thousands of dollars by leasing out 30 acres to a local farmer. The land will eventually be developed as part of the 130-acre Jim Bell Park and Preserve.

City staff are seeking a five-year lease. They will accept bids until Feb. 1.

"Why not? Revenue is revenue. Take advantage when you can," said Mayor Todd Larson. "Truth be told, they were farming it for a few years without payment. We realized they were farming our land."

After Farmington staff discovered neighboring farmers were working the city's land, the city entered a one-year lease with a farmer last spring. The farmer paid $200 an acre for 27 acres. The city deposited the $5,400 into the park improvement fund.

Parks and Recreation Director Randy Distad said he believes they can raise more cash with a longer lease term. The city also cleared an additional three acres to make it more enticing.

"With the price of corn and soybeans, I am fairly sure we will see bids higher than last year," Distad said.

The farming will not affect existing park amenities including a playground, picnic tables and trails. The land for lease borders 195th Street.

The farmer who gets the lease must rotate crops and adhere to other best practices to prevent erosion or damage to the land, Distad said. The farmer will be able to grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat or oats.

Located on the periphery of the Twin Cities, Farmington is in the perfect position to lease out land for agriculture, Distad said.

Why did Farmington acquire the park land before it's time to develop it?

The city requires developers to deed over some of their land for future parks. That's how they've acquired much of the land that makes up Jim Bell Park and Preserve. The park borders the Fairhill housing development.

Leaders have big plans for the park. An ambitious master plan shows a community center site, soccer, lacrosse and baseball fields, a batting cage, ice rink, picnic shelters, trails and hundreds or parking spots.

Shannon Prather is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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