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Group works to preserve farmsteads

Associated Press

DES MOINES -- An Iowa group dedicated to preserving barns now seeks to preserve farmsteads and farmland.

The Iowa Barn Foundation has created the Farm Conservancy Project to accept donated farms.

The group promises to oversee the management of the farms, which will be used only for agricultural purposes.

Organizers say they will employ sound conservation practices and give young and beginning farmers first chance at leasing the properties.

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The effort was prompted by concerns about farms being lost to development and historic farm buildings being leveled. The foundation's board approved the new project last month.

"I think that everybody sees farms being divided up and developed," said Jacqueline Andre Schmeal, a native Iowan who helped establish the Barn Foundation.

Tom Lawler, a Parkersburg attorney and vice president of the foundation says metro areas like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids face pressures similar to those experienced in major cities like Chicago or Minneapolis.

"I think there is a very real need" for the new initiative, he said.

Formed in 1997 as a nonprofit organization, the foundation fosters preservation of barns and other farm buildings through matching grants, barn tours and a quarterly magazine.

So far, the group has raised about $425,000 and has awarded 35 matching grants for restoration of Iowa barns. That work will continue, organizers said.

Kelly Tobin, a New Market farmer and farm manager, is chairman of the Farm Conservancy Project.

In addition to Schmeal and Tobin, the committee running the project includes Paul Ramsey, an Iowa native and Los Angeles developer; Mary Dunea of Chicago, a Des Moines native and daughter of former Des Moines Register reporter George Mills; and Neil Harl, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University in Ames.

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On the Web: Iowa Barn Foundation http://www.iowabarnfoundation.org

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