Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program has finalized three farmland preservation projects in the past three months, permanently protecting another 105 acres of farmland from residential development. The additional acres of farmland now under conservation easement protection bring the total protected farmland in Skagit County to more than 14,200 acres.
Phil Wynne has owned his newly protected 25.5 acres of farmland in Bow since 1999. The land is currently leased to Skagit Valley Farms, which produced potatoes last season. Wynne’s property bridges previously protected farmland to its north and south, creating a 1,100-acre block of farmland off Chuckanut Drive near Bow permanently protected for agricultural use.
“The smaller size of Phil Wynne’s land makes it especially appealing to a residential development,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairperson Ron Wesen. “Thanks to Phil’s decision, the prime soil of his farmland remains protected for producers today and for future generations of farmers tomorrow.”
Todd Johnson‘s newly protected 10 acres border Mount Vernon city limits and the Skagit River, surrounded by cropland. These protected acres are part of Mr. Johnson’s vegetable seed operation, specializing in spinach and cabbage, on land he owns and leases across Skagit and Snohomish counties.
Spinach seed production can require up to a fifteen-year field rotation to break disease cycles and a one-mile radius of crop isolation to avoid cross-pollination. Mr. Johnson, like many farmers in Skagit County, depends on trading ground with nearby farms and landowners to meet the rotational needs of his crops.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture reports Skagit County as a major grower of the world’s cabbage seed and spinach seed. “Todd Johnson’s farming operation is an essential part of what Skagit County provides the region and the world,” said County Commissioner Peter Browning. “Our heartfelt thanks to Todd for his commitment to the viability of agriculture in the Skagit.”
Chris Boling’s 70-acre farm near Conway reaches back three generations to the late 1800s when his grandfather used draft horses to plow the fields. Crops grown on the land since then include grains, seed crops, and potatoes. Boling Farms sits adjacent to another 31.5 acres of protected farmland, which creates a 100-acre block of protected farmland at a critical freeway interchange.
“We offer our deepest gratitude to Chris Boling and his family,” said County Commissioner Lisa Janicki. “And to Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and its donors, who raised more than $100,000 to protect Boling Farms. Their generous contribution allows county Conservation Futures tax dollars to stretch further in support of protecting farms here in Skagit County.”
The Farmland Legacy Program is a county-funded initiative that compensates landowners for placing a perpetual conservation easement on their land. Landowners retain ownership of their land and continue their farming operations as usual. The program’s primary goal is to protect Skagit County’s vital agricultural productivity.
In total, landowners received $325,000 for the permanent protection of these three pieces of prime Skagit County farmland, including $217,000 from the Skagit County Conservation Futures tax fund and $108,000 from Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland.
The Skagit County Farmland Legacy Program is known as one of the most active and successful farmland preservation programs across Washington state, due to the number of protected acres and the ongoing community and county government support.
Despite strong land-use planning, Washington continues to lose farmland to development—nearly 100,000 acres between 2001 and 2016. Over 50% of the land lost was considered the state’s best quality farmland, according to the American Farmland Trust’s recent report.
To learn more about Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program, visit skagitcounty.net/farmland or call (360) 416-1417.