Farmland Conservation

PCC Farmland Trust

During Kathryn Gardow’s tenure as PCC Farmland Trust Executive Director, she worked with the Board and staff to create a process to evaluate strategic organic farmland acquisitions. Specifically, she led the Board through a strategic planning process, developing a 5-year plan for farmland conservation. Rather than purchasing farmland outright, conservation easements were purchased, allowing farmers to retain full ownership of the property, while at the same time protecting the value of long term farmland.

Further, specific criteria were developed to evaluate where and when to purchase conservation easements. Criteria considered included whether a farmer was currently actively farming the property, how threatened the property was from development pressures or conversion, whether funding was available from government sources, and how productive the property could be.

A notable success using this new strategy conserved (in perpetuity) the 100-acre Orting Valley Farm located in Pierce County, Washington for three organic farmers. Until then, none of them had been able to find affordable farmland for purchase. Kathryn led the successful efforts to secure funding from the State of Washington’s competitive Farmland Preservation grants (through the Recreation and Conservation Office) along with Pierce County’s Conservation Futures funds. Specific issues included creating the organic easement documents (the first of their kind in the nation), allocating agricultural water rights between the three farm properties, and negotiating agreeable terms between land seller and future owners. Tahoma Farms and Little Eorthe Farm both benefited from this farmland conservation effort and continue to operate there.

Conservation of Orting Valley Farms was the impetus for creating a PCC Farmland Trust stewardship program to ensure long-term viable organic farming on the properties and meet the requirements of the Land Trust Alliance.

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