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Preserving America's Farmlands

Prior to GIS assessment software, Geauga County had to manually mark up maps for soil assessment and calculating values took 20-30 minutes per parcel. Using RedSilo, the same calculations take 5-10 minutes per parcel.

Using GIS applications built on Esri software, local government agencies can more rapidly perform these calculations. Geauga County, Ohio, recently purchased RedSilo farmland assessment software from TDC Group, Inc., to update 2,100 parcels enrolled in the County's farmland value program. Geauga County, located in the northeastern corner of Ohio near Cleveland, has approximately 48,000 parcels.

Previously, calculating these values took 20-30 minutes per parcel. Now the County can return values in 5-10 minutes. "RedSilo helped us tremendously with updating the 2,100 parcels," said Roger Durham, Geauga County Deputy Auditor. "There are only two of us using RedSilo, and we were able to complete about 100 calculations per day. Without RedSilo, we would have only been able to complete about 20 per day. So instead of taking us 100 days to do the project, it only took us 20! It would have been so painful to try to do this project without RedSilo. In fact, we wouldn't have done the project at all without the software."

Using GIS helps the County communicate how agricultural assessments are calculated to landowners enrolled in the program. Kevin O'Reilly, a local Geauga County farmer, owns a farm located on a four-parcel lot and rents additional farmland. He is enrolled in the CAUV program and has used the County's GIS to research the tax values for the farms he rents. "The CAUV program has helped make it economically feasible to farm in the County. In some cases, it has postponed the conversion of land by helping the people save a little money," said O'Reilly. "If my farm was not enrolled in the CAUV program, I couldn't afford to pay the taxes on the land."

The County, no stranger to GIS and its benefits, adopted Esri products in the early 1990s and is ready to keep moving forward with its GIS. "Now that the public access system and RedSilo are in place, other departments throughout the County are interested in how GIS can serve their individual departmental needs," said Lou Marion, Geauga County GIS coordinator.

Today, more than 75 percent of America's fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are produced on urban-edge farms that are threatened by sprawling development. Farmland programs like Pennsylvania's Clean and Green, Ohio's CAUV, and the easement programs offered by 19 other states give farm owners incentives and the ability to preserve farmland.

Providing easy-to-use GIS tools to government officials means that programs like these will be more readily adopted and used across the country. "The key to participation in a program is easy administration. We have found this to be true with GIS in our community. The GIS is so easy to use and administer that it allows us to identify farmland locations, soils, and land use quickly and efficiently. This gives us the ability to be more responsive and have better detailed information for the farming industry," said Tracy A. Jemison, Geauga County auditor.

Farmland is not just open land waiting to be developed. It provides many great benefits--green space, wildlife habitat, and local economic stability--in addition to food for the nation. With GIS tools like the farmland assessment software in place, farmers can take greater advantage of farmland programs and help preserve the farmlands of America.

For more information contact
Chuck Bridgman
TDC Group, Inc.
Tel.: 866-832-4768, ext. 19

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