Jim Koch

Jim Koch, a managing member of Koch Family Farm, LLC, announces the sale of his family’s land to Dane County at a press conference held last week.

Dane County announced plans to purchase 82 acres of land in Vienna this week. If approved, the purchase would ensure that the land is preserved and protected from future development.

County Executive Joe Parisi said the goal is to reduce runoff caused by impervious surfaces.

“Instead of it being developed,” Parisi said, “we’re going to purchase this land. And when we have a heavy rain or flooding-type event, this land will be able to hold over 13 million gallons of water. So when we look at planning into the future…purchases like this are critical.”

Parisi said the land on Schumacher Road just south of Hwy. V was targeted for acquisition after being identified as a limited drainage basin, where water is retained by the subsoil instead of being diverted into nearby lakes or streams.

“One of the unique features of this property and the wetland here is that it’s internally drained,” said the county executive. “What that means is that, when it rains here and goes into this property, it doesn’t flow into the lake system.”

He said preserving such land is an integral part of the county’s flood-prevention efforts.

“If too many properties like this get developed where the water can’t sink into it,” Parisi said, “then it eventually gets diverted into the chain of lakes. So it just demonstrates how everything is connected. We’re a large county, and what happens in the rural areas impacts urban areas.”

The investment would represent the latest move in an $18 million effort to combat area flooding, which included a recent $10 million purchase for land adjacent to Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

“While that was a very important purchase and investment,” Parisi said, “just one is not enough. We have to look for areas where they have challenges. And when we have an opportunity to work with the landowner to preserve that land, we need to take advantage of it.”

The 82-acre property in Vienna would cost the county a reported $779,000.

Per an agreement with the seller, Koch Family Farm, LLC, a member of the company would continue cropping the land according to best management practices for the next 10 years.

A spokesman for the family, Jim Koch, said they are ready to let the land go.

“With the ag economy as it is,” Koch said, “it seemed like the right time to work with Dane County on turning this land into wildlife habitat and flood mitigation. My family began talks with the County on purchase of this land, and came to an agreement that brought us here today.”

Koch said heavy rains have taken a toll on his family’s business the past decade, leaving the land saturated and inconducive for any type of farming.

“The land became less agricultural and more wetland,” Koch said. “The land that I was able to farm varied widely from year to year. Record rainfall in 2008 and 2009 flooded this land, and even covered Hwy. V. And in the 10 years since then, we haven’t recovered it as farmland.”

Koch said he hopes the land will serve the county as well as it did his family.

“As our family grew,” Koch said, “the land helped take care of us. It was very productive farmland. But the climate has changed over my farming career…So I look forward to working with Dane County.”

Parisi’s office said a resolution to approve the purchase will be introduced at tonight’s County Board meeting.

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