Wayne Co. landowner donates ag easement, entire farm to agencies

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WOOSTER, Ohio – Longtime Wayne County resident Patricia Miller Quinby, now of Upper Arlington, has donated a 324-acre farm to the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).

Quinby and the estate of her late sister, Virginia Miller Reed, also donated an agricultural easement, known as “development rights,” to both the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the nonprofit Killbuck Watershed Land Trust.

Pioneer roots. Located eight miles northwest of OARDC’s Wooster campus between Old Lincoln Way and U.S. Route 30, the property, known as the Mellinger Farm, has been in operation since 1816, when Wayne County pioneer Benedict Mellinger purchased land from the U.S. government to raise sheep and flax for his family’s weaving business.

Currently, more than half of the property is dedicated to crops, primarily corn and soybeans. Mixed hard woods cover another 120 acres, while the remaining land is occupied by buildings, pastures, a stream and road right-of-ways.

Earlier gift. Half of the farm – the portion belonging to the estate of Virginia Miller Reed – is already the property of Ohio State. The remaining half will be transferred to the university in stages over the next six years.

“My wish is for the property to remain a farm as long as possible – to keep the green space in Wayne County, but also out of respect for all the generations who put their lives into the development of the land,” said Quinby, who approached OARDC last year to negotiate the terms of the gift.

Future use. According to OARDC Director Steven Slack, the farm will provide a unique facility for integrated systems research and education.

Mellinger Farm will incorporate integrated systems of forestry, crops and livestock, emphasizing the links among production, environmental quality, economic feasibility and social responsibility. Research will be conducted at multiple levels – field, landscape, whole farm – with diversified enterprises.

“One great thing about this project is that not only faculty and students will benefit from it,” said Ben Stinner, professor of entomology and head of the Agro-ecosystems Management Program at OARDC. “Farmers, agencies dealing with either crop production or environmental protection, and many other members of the community will be involved as well.”

Real world research. “Being so close to campus, this site will allow us to put our research directly to work in an actual farm,” said Kenneth Scaife, assistant to the director for field operations at OARDC and a key player in the donation process. “Farmers sometimes wonder whether our small-plot experiments are equally effective in the real world. We now have a place to show them.”

Additional plans include certification of the property as a sustainable forest management site by SmartWood, the world’s oldest and most extensive forest certification program, according to Robert Romig, assistant director of OSU’s School of Natural Resources.

Once this accreditation is obtained, OSU will join Duke University and Paul Smith College (N.Y.) as the only universities nationwide with SmartWood certification.

Conservation easement. Mellinger Farm is one of 10 properties that have joined Ohio’s agricultural conservation easement program, an innovative approach to land preservation sponsored by the Ohio Department of Agriculture since 2000.

Conservation easements are deed restrictions placed on property to protect resources such as productive agricultural land, ground and surface water, wildlife habitats, historic sites, or scenic views.

Tailored to each property and to the needs of individual landowners, they authorize a qualified conservation organization or public agency to monitor and enforce such restrictions.

The Killbuck Watershed Land Trust and ODA will hold the easement for Mellinger Farm, ensuring that its land is kept available for farming.

“By donating the development rights to their farm, Mrs. Quinby and her family have committed to permanently protect some of the best soil in the world,” said Fred L. Dailey, Ohio’s director of agriculture. “This is a tremendous gesture.”

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