Scott Chichester, owner and farmer of Chi’s Farm in Sequim, is among the local farmers that help make the annual Harvest Dinners happen. (Alana Linderoth/North Olympic Land Trust)

Scott Chichester, owner and farmer of Chi’s Farm in Sequim, is among the local farmers that help make the annual Harvest Dinners happen. (Alana Linderoth/North Olympic Land Trust)

Farmland conservation in spotlight at annual Friends of the Fields Harvest Dinner

SEQUIM — Seats are on sale for the 19th annual Friends of the Fields Harvest Dinner, the largest event in Clallam County that is solely focused on local farmland conservation.

The North Olympic Land Trust dinner will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16 at Sunland Country Club, 109 Hilltop Drive.

The cost is $125 per seat before Sept. 3 and $150 after that date. Tables seat nine; those who buy eight seats get the ninth free. All must be purchased in advance and about half had been sold by this week. Seats will not be sold at the door.

The theme of the dinner will be “Know the Hands That Feed You.” It will feature the flavors of several local farms as North Olympic Peninsula’s farm-to-table chefs, bakers and butchers come together to make the multi-course meal.

“Thanks to the sponsors, donations from local grocers, businesses and farms, and the help of many dedicated volunteers, including the chefs, all proceeds from the dinner directly benefit farmland conservation projects,” said Tom Sanford, Land Trust executive director.

The community support raised at the annual Friends of the Fields Harvest Dinner has had a vast and permanent impact on the county, North Olympic Land Trust representatives say.

Thanks to that support and to willing landowners, North Olympic Land Trust has conserved 17 farms on more than 520 acres of working farmland, organizers said.

Funds from previous Harvest Dinners have assisted with each project, Sanford said.

Last year’s event raised more than $60,000 dedicated to local farmland conservation.

“The generosity shown at Harvest Dinner has not only helped to preserve our community’s agricultural heritage,” Sanford said, “but it also has allowed it to continue to evolve and ensure farmland is accessible for the next generation.”

To preserve farmland and all that it provides, such as open space, wildlife habitat, jobs and access to fresh and healthy food, is an ongoing goal for the Land Trust. Farmland is one of the most threatened landscapes in Clallam County, Sanford said.

Land ideal for farming is often ideal for many other purposes and thus pressures to convert farmland are ever-increasing, he said.

Clallam County has lost more than 75 percent of its agricultural lands, Land Trust officials said, with the majority of the farmland lost in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley – once known for hundreds of dairies.

Farming in Clallam County, particularly in the Sequim-Dungeness with its microclimate, good soils and surface irrigation, continues to be an important a part of the local economy and its identity, Sanford said.

The Land Trust is now working toward the conservation of a 132-acre farm in eastern Clallam County known as Wonderland & The 80. Located at Port Williams and Schmuck roads, Wonderland & The 80 is one of the largest pieces of working farmland in the area.

Since the 1930s, the land has supported a variety of crops. Today, the land is mainly used to grow seed crops and feed critical to Maple View Dairy — one of only two remaining dairies in Clallam County.

The Land Trust secured some state and federal funding to aid in the conservation of Wonderland & The 80; however, a portion of the funds necessary for that property and other emerging projects remains.

“At the rate farmland is being converted, we need to be able to move quickly,” Sanford said. “The community’s support at events like Harvest Dinner is key to successful farmland conservation.”

Purchase tickets at www.northolympicland trust.org or by calling the Land Trust at 360-417-1815, ext. 4.

Event volunteer Magdalene Adenau serving locally sourced lamb kofta with romesco at the Harvest Dinner 2017. (Alana Linderoth/North Olympic Land Trust)

Event volunteer Magdalene Adenau serving locally sourced lamb kofta with romesco at the Harvest Dinner 2017. (Alana Linderoth/North Olympic Land Trust)

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