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Staff Explains: Baseline Edition

September 8, 2023

Farmland preservation takes a lot more than you might think. It involves paperwork, farm visits, drones, reviews, and much more. The process of protecting farmland is the heart of our work at LFT. One of the essential parts of farmland preservation is what we call a baseline visit.

What is a baseline visit, and why does it matter? I sat down with Aidan Das, Land Protection and GIS Specialist, and Laura Komara, Land Protection Assistant, to discuss baselines, why they matter, and what they’re like.

“Baseline visits are the visits we do to capture photos of the farm,” Aidan explained. At a baseline visit, Aidan and Laura’s goal is to document the condition of the farm at the time of preservation. They take photos of the farm’s property lines and buildings from various angles to do this.

Documenting the land is essential for multiple reasons.

First, after a farm is preserved, LFT staff returns to each farm for a monitoring visit. During these, the photos taken during baseline visits are compared to the property at the current moment. Essentially, baseline photos act as a marker; they’re used to show LFT what has and hasn’t changed since the beginning of preservation.

Baseline photos are also important when looking for property complications. For example, if a neighbor’s driveway extends onto a farm’s property, LFT must contact that neighbor to ensure that use is addressed during preservation.

Last but certainly not least, baseline photos are used to create maps of the property. Buildings, boundaries, and other landmarks are matched with the pictures taken and located on a larger property map for future reference.

So, how are baseline photos taken?

First, Aidan and Laura trek out to the farm in question. Equipped with an iPad, drone, GPS, and snacks, the girls are prepared to capture all our baseline photos. iPads are used by LFT staff to take basic, eye-level images of various aspects of the property. After these are captured, staff identifies the boundaries of the property and programs them into a drone to ensure that our drone doesn’t fly over a neighboring property. Then, licensed LFT staff fly the drone and photograph buildings, boundaries, landmarks, and views. After all the photos are captured, they’re taken back to the office, where Aidan and Laura will label and map them.

Baseline visits are part of what makes working at LFT unique. Both Laura and Aidan agree that these visits are some of their favorite parts of their jobs. “I like that part of my job is going outside and getting to take in the beauty of the farms we’re preserving,” Aidan noted. Laura agreed. “I’ve seen some really pretty views on baselines. Some roads and farms overlook the county, and I really get to see how beautiful it is,” she said. They also love to see the animals on the farms. “I saw a camel once, that was pretty interesting,” Aidan noted. Laura said that highland cows are her favorite to see.

As exciting as baselines are, they come with their own set of challenges. Depending on the size of a property, a baseline visit can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours at a time. Forests, hills, and bodies of water can make a visit longer, so time management is of utmost importance for our Land Protection staff. Then, of course, we must take care of our beloved drone. Drones can only be flown in certain kinds of weather; heavy rain, snow, or wind will destroy it. So, staff must be flexible – a baseline visit may be canceled the day of due to inclement conditions.

Baseline visits are an essential step in the long preservation process. We want to thank the Land Protection staff for all that they do! If you’re interested in helping LFT with our preservation process, click here to learn more about getting involved.

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