Farmland conservation in Washington is essential to sustain our state’s agricultural economy and rural heritage.
Yet the amount of agricultural land in Washington has declined significantly in recent years, with Puget Sound having lost over 57 percent of its farmland since the 1950s. In addition, the aging demographics of producers and increased development pressure has seen agricultural land steadily transition from families into corporate ownership. Together, these trends put the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the state’s food system at risk.
Many farmers and ranchers would prefer to protect their family’s legacy, and transition their operation to the next generation. Conservation easements provide one way for private landowners to protect thousands of acres of valuable farm and ranchlands from being lost. Agricultural land easements prevent conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses and provide financial support to landowners, all while safeguarding wildlife habitat, open space and ecosystem benefits.
The members of the Farmland Affinity Group are committed to helping ensure that the local benefits of agriculture continue to accrue across the diverse communities in Washington. We do this by advocating for robust public funding, developing creative financing strategies, building land linking programs, supporting community outreach, and much more.
Together, we envision a vibrant and resilient food system for Washington.
In this future, our state’s most productive farmland is protected forever, family farms large and small remain viable into the future, and all people have access to fresh, healthy, and affordable produce.
The Dungeness Valley has a long agricultural history, and the land has retained this cultural and ecological significance over the years. Within this valley, River’s Edge remains an important place for farming and restoration. Working collaboratively, North Olympic Land Trust and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe purchased 104 total acres of farmland and habitat along the Dungeness River keeping it forever protected as farmland and habitat. The North Olympic Land Trust has been working acre by acres to protect a connected ecosystem. With this purchase, the land trust will own over 60 acres of farmland along Towne Road. To continue with River’s Edge farming legacy, it’s goal is to obtain a permanent conservation easement with the hopes of selling to a farmer.
After choosing to retire in Walla Walla, Carl and Sonia Schmitt saw development encroaching slowly on their home in Titus Creek. Carl and Sonia were able to successfully buy their neighbors’ land, but they knew this was only a temporary solution. In order to protect the land permanently, they collaborated with other members of their community to form Blue Mountain Land Trust. The easement on Titus Creek, which allows for continued use of productive land, is characteristic of Blue Mountain Land Trust’s mission.
In North Central Washington, the Okanogan Highlands are highly-valued grasslands that are continually threatened by low-density development. These grasslands represent key livestock grazing areas and prominent wildlife corridors that are increasingly fragmented. Within this region sits the Olma Ranch, 1,600 acres of working ranchland that is permanently protected through a conservation easement with the Okanogan Land Trust. A family of highland cattle ranchers, the Olma family wanted to find a way to protect the agricultural legacy of their home for the next generation. This story is captured by the Okanogan Valley’s Gazette-Tribune.