Featured on the cover of the August issue of Michigan Farmer is the Wilson Centennial Farm, which dates back 165 years. It’s heartening to know that an abundance of farms in Michigan are generational and have spanned centuries — and I do mean centuries.
There are at three certified family farms of more than 200 years registered in the state. An amazing 6,458 centennial farms and 436 sesquicentennial farms are certified through the Michigan Centennial Farm Program, which was started in 1948 and is run by the Historical Society of Michigan.
It’s great to see all the green-and-yellow signs that proudly proclaim this rich heritage. It’s also an ode to the family, as you all know farming is not for everyone and even when everything is done right, it doesn’t always make you successful.
Is your family farm a centennial farm? Have you considered getting it certified?
Abigail Wright-Geddes, awards coordinator for the Historical Society of Michigan, says the most important thing is providing documentation of continuous ownership. “Usually, it’s through deeds, but we sometimes get wills,” she says. “If you are having trouble finding that information, visit the county register of deeds.”
To qualify for centennial farm status, your property must be a working farm of 10 or more acres that has been continuously owned by the same family for at least 100 years. Get an application at hsmichigan.org/programs/centennial-farm-program or request one from Wright-Geddes. She can be reached at 517-324-1828 or at [email protected].
In addition to supplying documents of continuous ownership and the legal description of the land, the application asks several questions about the original owner, including the person’s birthplace, nationality or ethnicity, where the owner lived before moving to the farm, how the land was obtained, and whether the owner was married and if there were children.
The application asks for photos of each current building on the farm, photos of an overall view of a cluster of farm buildings, and a sketch, or map, of the farm’s layout. Applicants are asked to list all buildings, structures and other historic features on the farm (i.e., farmhouse, barn, sheds, windmill, chicken coop, windbreaks, etc.), the approximate date of construction, and the original and current use.
Also requested is a brief history of the farm and its farming members.
Wright-Geddes says the society is also interested in identifying potential archaeological sites and any information about Indian mounds, villages, camps, dance circles or trails. “Every three years we supply a copy of our files to the Archives of Michigan, which stores the files,” Wright-Geddes says. “They often get requests from researchers.”
Once your application is submitted, it takes about two to three weeks for it to be reviewed by Wright-Geddes and her supervisor, Chong-Anna Canfora.
Accepted farms will receive a certificate from the Historical Society of Michigan, and the appropriate sign will follow in about four to six weeks.
The application fee for a centennial farm is $95 and it includes the sign. The sesquicentennial fee, which includes a smaller horizontal plaque that hangs below the centennial sign, is $49. The bicentennial application, which includes a different-sized plaque that also hangs below the centennial sign, is $95.
The official green-and-yellow markers are sponsored by Michigan electrical utility companies to commemorate the dramatic changes electricity brought to farm operation and family life.