By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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On Wednesday, the Jefferson Land Trust will finalize the $100,000 purchase of a 16-acre parcel there that will be used as an agricultural center for young farmers, according to Sarah Spaeth, the trust’s executive director.
“There are a lot of discussions about what we can do to preserve the land and reinvest it to sustain this way of life,” Spaeth said to a crowd of about 25 people.
“Farmers and business owners are coming together to determine what steps we can take to grow Chimacum into the center of our thriving agricultural hub and how we can provide access to local markets and give farmers the support they need,” she said.
The land is just north of the intersection of state Highway 19 and Center Road.
The development plans are still uncertain, but Spaeth would like to build a group housing facility and a place where ideas and businesses can grow.
“The vision is to build an affordable housing cluster for the younger generation of farmers that will serve as an incubator for those who don’t have the land to try out a business concept,” Spaeth said.
Factors that need to be addressed are the county’s allowance of a housing cluster and what it will take to build the facility, but Spaeth is optimistic about the prospects.
Spaeth said that the 24-year-old Land Trust has been essential in preserving local agriculture through its acquisition of grants and purchase of conservation easements, as well as through buying farms and leasing them back to the previous owners so they can develop their business.
“In the case of Red Dog Farm, we literally bought the farm, allowing owner Karen Williams to use her savings to get the business up and running,” Spaeth said.
“She had a lease to buy, she had five years and paid it off two years early and was able to build her farmhouse out there.”
The purchase of conservation rights brings money to the farmer while preserving it in perpetuity so the farm will continue, Spaeth said.
Spaeth said that Finnriver Farms owner Crystie Kisler contacted the Land Trust several years ago saying she needed to buy out her partner but didn’t have the funds and was considering selling the portion of the farm that contained the barn.
The Land Trust purchased a conservation easement, and Finnriver now has 20 employees and did $1 million business in 2013,
Not only should we be preserving these lands for farming, we need to be supporting the local economy and culture,” Spaeth said.
Spaeth said that she is inspired by the Maritime Discovery Initiative, a partnership between the Port Townsend Schools and the Northwest Maritime Center to inject maritime elements into all educational programs.
“We have been focused on using our lands for learning, using the lands that we own as living classrooms,” she said.
“I’m excited by this program because the maritime ecosystem doesn’t stop at high tide, it goes all the way up to the Olympic Mountains where the salmon are taking the nutrients from the sea.
“Our children need to know about this whole cycle.”
For more information call 360-379-5710 or visit www.saveland.org.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.