Friends find farmland too expensive —

Friends find farmland too expensive

By Evan McLean; Jan. 31, 2007 © Sequim Gazette

January 31, 2007

A land cost increase sidelined a Friends of the Fields mission to preserve 28-acres of prime agricultural land from development.

The Friends recently asked for a $28 dollar donation from supporters of Proposition 1 two years ago to purchase 24 acres of agricultural land being used by organic farmer Nash Huber, but the landowner ended up asking too high a price for grants and donations to cover.

“For right now, the price for the original 24 acres is outside the realm of possibility for us to cover with what funds we may have by spring,” Friends president Jim Aldrich said.

He said a final deal had not been reached with the family and initial estimates were made on assessed value, not the family’s actual asking price, which was about $100,000 an acre.

“The Friends immediately began aggressively pursuing other pieces of property in the Dungeness Valley that would be comparable,” he said.

Comparable is key. The grants and land acquisition need to go through a special board in Olympia, the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation. Aldrich said that board must approve the land change before final grant approval.

He said the county representative to the board is aware of the switch, the application process does not need to begin anew and the funds will be carried over.

“The donations will not be refunded since they will continue to go toward a very similar land acquisition preserving farmland in another location,” Aldrich said. “We received a very positive response to the $28 program and hope to carry that momentum into the future.”

Aldrich said that the door isn’t shut toward possible acquisition of the acreage that Huber leases for his organic farm. He said conditions may change and the family representative expressed the possibility of future negotiations.   

The Friends still plan to have a “farmer’s breakfast” fundraiser Feb. 25 at the Sequim Prairie Grange hall on Macleay Road. The meal will feature eggs, meat and vegetables raised in the Dungeness Valley, all served with homemade bread.

The proceeds will be added to those funds already raised by donors to the preservation cause.

The group estimates that the county has about 17,000 acres of farmland, and it is their goal to keep the agricultural tradition and land available for future generations.

The Friends say local farms keep the county’s economy strong both in providing merchandise and the rural atmosphere that draws tourists to the area. Also, by raising and distributing crops and livestock locally, the farmers become more accountable for the quality of their product, according to the Friends.

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