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Inventorying, Managing and Preserving Agricultural Historic Landscapes in Minnesota


Contents: Chapter 4

4.  Directions For Future Research and Activity

    Minnesota Agricultural Historic Landscape Preservation Forum

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4. Directions For Future Research and Activity

The making of the agricultural landscape in Minnesota is very much a part of our living history. Much of the state is still in active agriculture. Historic farm landscapes, however, occupy a special niche in the Minnesota psyche. They present not only a vision of stability and continuity, but the popular image of what Minnesota was, and still is, all about. As part of our evolution as a state, significant and representative examples of these cultural places deserve recognition, and conservation management attention.

Minnesota Agricultural Historic Landscape Preservation Forum

In order to examine how these landscapes could realistically be identified and protected, MHS convened state agency program staff, planners, preservationists and other environmental and cultural interests to educate them about the importance of historic agricultural and other cultural landscapes, and to explore existing and potential partnerships and management options available for their protection.

Participants voiced the need for a state-wide effort to address issues affecting agriculture, including:

  • development pressure for non-agricultural land uses
  • changes in agricultural economies and scales
  • competitiveness for farm markets - alternative crops and ecological benefits
  • reasons that people move to urban areas
  • lack of significant cash incentives to retain historic agricultural buildings
  • perception of landscape preservation vs. the economy
  • no common understanding of the meaning and needs of the "family farm"
  • do land stewardship actions appear to compete with or diminish agricultural profitability?
  • preservation versus market forces -- creation of increasing numbers of "redundant farmsteads"
  • consolidation of ownership to make farming profitable
  • development pressure as a result of new roads -- balancing need for access, traffic flow

The workshop resulted in specific recommendations for actions that the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) and other state agencies could take to increase the visibility and importance of historic agricultural landscapes, and other cultural landscapes, in their programs. Because this report is intended primarily for general use, the full recommendations are not included here, but are included in a supplementary report to MHS. They can be summarized, however, by stating that there is a clear need for a systematic effort to document and interpret cultural landscapes at the regional and statewide level in Minnesota.

Throughout the United States, there is currently a great demand to protect open space, historic sites and their contexts, and large-scale landscapes in their entirety. Minnesotans, likewise, want not only clean air, water, and close-to-home recreation, but communities that retain a sense of place -- a respect for the past and its landscape. A statewide "heritage landscape" program would provide a clear overarching context for landscape studies in a variety of subject areas, and the opportunity to develop the partnerships focused on landscape protection. It would provide local communities with tools for recognizing and protecting community resources of local value and, in general, help Minnesotans understand that their cultural heritage is more than dots on a map or isolated sites, but a coherent landscape of interrelated buildings and places, bearing the marks of the great and ordinary people that built and used them.

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