In the 1920s and 1930s, Perry Pasley sold fruits and vegetables from his farm along Swan Creek on the back of his truck.
Now, his great-grandson has made sure that land will be preserved with the family name for the foreseeable future and will produce food again.
Named Pasley’s Swan Creek Farm and located where County Hwy. MM connects with Goodland Park Road, the 36-acre parcel has wetland, streams, an oak savanna and numerous trails. It is part of the Waubesa Wetlands and had been in the Pasley family since 1913, before Brian Pasley sold it to Groundswell Conservancy in December.
Groundswell is a local 35-year-old nonprofit organization that had been known before 2018 as the Natural Heritage Land Trust. It aims to conserve through purchase or accepting donations of land or conservation easements, its website explains.
The land was handed down over the years from Perry to Luther Pasley and eventually to Brian’s dad, also named Perry. Brian took ownership in 2000, and ever since, he said, he’s been trying to ensure its natural features stay protected.
“I was wondering, ‘What do I do with this great asset?’’ Pasley said. “I had made lots of conservation efforts myself, eradicating invasive species and trying my best to protect the wetland on my own, and then I found out about Groundswell.”
The Waubesa Wetlands have been the topic of much discussion over the past decade, as the City of Fitchburg has planned expansion east of U.S. Hwy. 14, which was upgraded to a four-lane road in the area in 2010. More than one square mile has been approved for potential development, and area conservation groups have been fighting to preserve the wetlands, as they believe the water quality and quantity will change as the development progresses into the future.
Pasley said the developers have done a “fantastic” job connecting with area landowners and taking the health of the land into consideration.
“They had a wetland expert walk my land with me three different times, because they know how important it is to protect the watershed,” Pasley explained. “This acquisition is going to ensure the watershed will be protected and the downstream effects will be mitigated.”
It also will ensure the land once again yields fresh produce.
Part of the deal, Pasley said, was for Groundswell to ensure the land would be gardened for area food pantries. That includes a partnership with Neighborhood Food Solutions, an organization that works to provide educational activities related to urban agriculture, healthy food and skills related to growing and distributing fresh produce, according to its website.
Pasley said the land will also be used to host educational activities for youth and adults to teach about how food is grown and where it comes from. That’s something he learned growing up while he sold raspberries grown on the farm door-to-door with his father.
“Now the land is going to go back to that,” he said. “It’s going to go from being a corn field to have food grown for local consumption.”