Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Announces New "Organic Agriculture Lands" Initiative

September 18, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823, or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive


24 Acre Pilot Parcel Near CamRock County Park Available to Lease


Dane County has designated 24 acres near CamRock County Park as a pilot parcel for its new “Organic Agriculture Lands” initiative, increasing access to county-owned land for farmers who wish to grow organic crops, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


The land is suitable for farmers interested in growing crops such as grain or alfalfa that could then be sold to organic dairies, beef, or bread producers.  Interested growers may also offer their own ideas on what they would like to plant.


“Agriculture and gardening are important components of Dane County’s landscape, cultural identity, and economy,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.  “Making more parkland accessible to farmers, in addition to efforts currently underway to develop our first community garden in Badger Prairie County Park, and local agriculture projects at Anderson Farm County Park and Silverwood County Park, are helping to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of agriculture.”


Recognizing the important public interest served by more diverse use of public lands, the 2012-2017 Dane County Parks and Open Space Plan recommends agriculture and gardening as well-suited and possibly long-term uses of county parkland. Utilizing parkland for agriculture and gardening is an opportunity to provide local food; support healthy, active lifestyles; provide ways to connect with nature; and attract new visitors to Dane County’s park system.


Historically, conventional agriculture has been utilized on some park properties as an interim management tool. Row cropping helped prepare land for restoration and prevented invasive species from spreading into the area. Over the past few years the explosive growth of the local foods movement, along with new perspectives on combining natural land management with food production, has led to the addition of sustainable agricultural activities in the county park system.


Interested growers can submit a request for proposal (RFP) to lease the 24 acres for a five-year term with a three-year option to renew on mutual consent.  This time frame allows the grower to complete organic certification, if they choose, within the life of the lease. 


The RFP also requires interested growers to keep track of land practices to aid in the organic certification process and aid any growers who were to later lease the property for organic crops. 


Request for proposals are due by December 2nd, 2014.  Bid materials will be available on the County’s website,, starting the week of September 23rd.  Interested growers are encouraged to contact Will Mann at 608-224-3760 or mann@countyofdane.comwith any questions.


“The designation of county lands available for organic farming is a step forward in the county's efforts to support and partner with local farmers and growers,” said Dane County Supervisor and Chair of the Dane County Food Council, Jenni Dye.  “Agriculture is an important part of Dane County's economy and we are excited to expand our investment in local agriculture and Dane County's growing focus on local foods through this new pilot program.”


Utilizing parkland for agriculturebuilds on the county’s previous efforts to strengthen this important sector of the economy and help producers find more markets for their products.


In 2005, the Dane County Board voted to create a Dane County Food Council, dedicated in part to expanding availability of local foods in the county and identifying resources for local growers.


In 2006, Dane County created the Institutional Food Market Coalition to link these local farmers and producers with large food buyers like universities, hospitals, hotels, and conference centers.  This effort successfully sold and delivered well over $4 million in local food sales of locally grown products—vegetables, meats, and cheeses – to dozens of public and private sector users.


County efforts helped realize the development of a regional food hub facility that allows growers from Dane County and the region to aggregate produce to sell to large-scale buyers, such as school districts and Roundy’s Foods.


The county is also helping develop a fresh market on Madison’s Southside.  Once complete, this new facility will help food producers in the region expand their sales and help families in the Southdale Neighborhood have easy access to fresh, healthy produce.  Southdale has been identified as a “food desert” – an area lacking a full service grocery store.


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