The Ottawa Conservation District (OCD) is offering technical and financial assistance to farmers through its Farmland & Water Quality Conservation Initiative. This program is funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and will leverage nearly 7 million federal, state, and local dollars through 2026 within Ottawa County and its neighboring watersheds. The goals of this initiative include: 1) protecting surface and groundwater quality; 2) improving habitat for fish and wildlife; and 3) preserving manageable farmlands that can help conserve groundwater resources. To achieve lasting results, OCD will work with the NRCS and local partners to enroll up to 11,970 acres in conservation practices, and 125 acres in farmland preservation. This will lead to an estimated annual reduction of 600 tons of sediment, and 24,000 lbs of nutrients in the project area.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) supports working lands conservation by providing localized funding for cost-share payments and free technical assistance to agriculture producers. In doing so, the program addresses natural resource concerns and delivers environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility.
Download a copy of the project factsheet here: FWQCI Factsheet
This map depicts the entire project area. If you are a producer outside of Ottawa County, but within the project area, you may still qualify!
What does this project mean for West Michigan?
This project aims to improve the long-term economic, social, and environmental health of Ottawa County and the surrounding area by protecting surface and groundwater quality, improving aquatic and wildlife habitat, and preserving manageable farmland in the Macatawa, Lower Grand, and Pigeon River watersheds. Along with NRCS, OCD will be partnering with Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program, Ottawa County Groundwater Sustainability Initiative, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, Ottawa County Farm Bureau, neighboring conservation districts, and local townships.
Major benefits of this program to landowners includes:
- Increased technical assistance available from Conservation District staff to help identify solutions for a multitude of farmland and forestry problems and to provide comprehensive conservation planning. These services are always free to any landowner.
- Increased financial assistance available specifically for the project area in and around Ottawa County. Once a landowner goes through the conservation planning process with one of our technicians, they can apply for cost-share assistance to implement practices.
Technical assistance and cost-share funding from this program can help both agricultural producers and forest landowners protect their land and create beneficial habitat for pollinators and wildlife (see photo to the left). Agricultural practices, such as planting cover crops in the photo to the right, can protect soil from wind and water erosion and help water infiltrate into your field rather than running over it.
Steps for Interested Producers
- Speak with one of our conservation planning experts.
- Schedule a site-visit to evaluate your conservation needs, goals, and objectives.
- Work with our staff to develop a personalized conservation plan for your property and resources.
- Once satisfied with your plan, submit your request for funding to the NRCS.
- Work with OCD and NRCS to implement your personalized conservation plan.
Watch the Rollout Meeting Recording!
On March 23rd, 2022, OCD held the Initial Rollout Meeting for the Farmland & Water Quality Initiative. This meeting was recorded and is available for viewing at any time. This meeting provided an overview of the project, details on eligible conservation practices, discussed the application process, and presented project timelines. Click here to watch!
Who is eligible? Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners within the geographic project area are eligible to apply for funding through the Farmland and Water Quality Conservation Initiative. The geographic area encompasses the entirety of Ottawa County and portions of Muskegon, Newaygo, Kent, and Allegan Counties and follows the boundaries of the Macatawa, Pigeon, and Lower Grand River Watersheds.
How do I apply? Apply directly with the Ottawa Conservation District. Please find our staff’s contact information below.
When can I sign-up? Applications are accepted year-round. Funding will be awarded on an annual basis. Contact the Ottawa Conservation District for more information on award dates.
How long does the process take? Timelines vary by project. The planning process can take several months to complete. This time is necessary to ensure that local environmental concerns are addressed.
Is this free? Yes! All technical assistance provided by the Ottawa Conservation District and NRCS is completely free. Planned conservation activities are cost-shared.
Who helps make sure I implement conservation practices correctly? OCD and NRCS staff will assist you every step of the way.
What practices can I get funded? Eligible practices are designed to protect water resources and improve wildlife habitat. Some of these include: cover crops, grassed waterways, irrigation improvements, drainage management and many more. Contact our office for a full list of eligible practices.
Is this confidential? Yes. All producer information remains confidential as required by law.
Will I lose decision-making power on my land? No. Landowners make all final conservation planning and implementation decisions.
I’m not interested in getting funded but I would still like help to improve my land. We can help. Our staff are dedicated to assisting landowners with all their conservation needs through free technical assistance and conservation planning.
How does this program differ from other NRCS programs? Unlike other NRCS programs, RCPP is designed to provide funding for a specific region of the state. This improves our ability to serve producers in that area and creates less competition for funding.
2022 Program Achievements
We had an extremely successful first year! Since the start of this program in the beginning of 2022, OCD staff and partners have assisted 14 landowners throughout the project area in creating conservation plans and enrolling 4,174 acres of private land in conservation practices. Some of the practices enrolled through this program include cover crops, fencing, conservation cover, brush managment, forest harvest management, grassed waterways, prescribed grazing, reduced tillage, soil health amandements, and tree & shrub establishment. Implementation of these practices will occur over the next year.
Holistic Management Foundations Workshop
On March 22nd, 2023, the Farmland & Water Quality Initiative team hosted a free workshop on Holistic Management. Kyle Hildebrandt, a Savory Institute Accredited Professional, introduced the basics of Holistic Management and how this way of regenerative farming can benefit the farmers of Ottawa County. Check out the links below to learn more about Holistic Management!
- HMF Workshop Slides
- What is Holistic Management article: savory.global/what-is-holistic-management/
- Savory Institute – Managing the Complexities of Land & Livestock: savory.global/holistic-management/
Alex Svoboda, Project Manager
Kyle Hildebrandt, Soil Conservation Technician
Sarah Bowman, Outreach Coordinator,