PCC Farmland Fund protects a second farm

Bullitt Foundation pledges $25,000 in matching funds to secure prime growing area for organic agriculture

Sound Consumer | June 2002

by Jody Aliesan, President, PCC Farmland Fund

The Shipley Fields
The Shipley Fields. Their rich alluvial soil is "Carlsborg-Dungeness complex, very deep and well-drained with a rooting depth 60 inches or more. The hazard of water erosion is slight." Source: Soil Survey of Clallam County Area, Washington, USDA.

"If we want to be responsible to ourselves and the planet, then the best most of us can do most of the time is to shorten the chain from the farm to our table, get as close to the producer as possible when we can." — Joan Dye Gussow, "This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader"

Holding off development bulldozers against the fast disappearance of farmland in Western Washington, our Farmland Fund rides to the rescue of 40 acres of prime farmland in the Dungeness Delta near Sequim.

Steffan Sherman will hold title and farm the Shipley Fields Steffan Sherman will hold title and farm the Shipley Fields.

The owner of the Shipley Fields planned to cover this fertile Dungeness River alluvial soil with 120 houses in a tightly packed residential development. The Fund and its local partner, Sequim resident Steffan Sherman, watched his progress closely.

When the owner punched an access road through an old wildlife corridor along the boundary, Sherman vaulted over real estate protocol to contact him directly. During long and urgent conversations, Sherman convinced him to reconsider development plans and agree to a purchase option for $850,000.

The Hyer Barn and its resident barn owl -- part of a historic farmstead. The Hyer Barn and its resident barn owl
-- part of a historic farmstead.

Care and use

Sherman will initiate the purchase and hold title to the land. "Farming organically is the best choice for my health, the health of those eating what I grow, and protection of wildlife and water quality," he says. "Considering the soil type, drainage and exposure, I'm seeing row crops, grapes and cane fruit." Sherman expects to participate in local farmer's markets and feature his fruit and vegetables in a restaurant he plans to open in the farm's restored dairy barn — along with cheese, bread and wine produced by local artisans.

The Farmland Fund will retire development rights on the Shipley Fields by buying an agricultural conservation easement from Sherman that will require organic farming in perpetuity. The Fund's investment will also assist him with the land's purchase price and help move his long-term vision into reality.

The Shipley Fields: five miles upstream from our Delta Farm in the Dungeness River Valley near Sequim on the Olympic Penninsula. The Shipley Fields: five miles upstream from our Delta Farm in the Dungeness River Valley near Sequim on the Olympic Penninsula.

An easement's value is the difference between the land's development price and its agricultural price. Based on current land sales in the area, the Shipley easement will cost at least $250,000. Supporters of the Fund — PCC members, staff, shoppers, vendors and foundations — are responding to the challenge to raise this money. The Bullitt Foundation will match the first $25,000. (See Farmland Fund, June 2002 Sound Consumer, for more information)

Center foreground: The Robb Barn. Center background (beyond the single line of trees): The Shipley Fields Center foreground: The Robb Barn. Center background (beyond the single line of trees): The Shipley Fields
"Eating is a moral act.
What we eat affects our health.
The values that support us when we deliberately
choose foods that are both nutritionally good
and grown by local farmers who get a just
price are deeply spiritual."
— Earth Almanac

Early endorsement comes from David Heitmiller and Jacqueline Blix, authors of "Getting a Life," who annually commit 97 percent of the net proceeds from their book to causes that support the environment, social justice, and sustainable lifestyles. "Although we normally wouldn't be allocating donations until near the end of the year," Blix says, "we believe this is a unique opportunity that is worth supporting now, especially since our donation will be matched by the Bullitt Foundation."

Others making leadership gifts include Diane and Steve Adam, Lucy Hadac, Laurie McMillan, Werner M. Melcher, Kelly Sanderbeck and Brent Ewing, Mark C. Svore, Wendy S. Zieve, allGoode Organics, Organic Valley, TalkingRain Beverage Company and Velocipede Architects. Betty Hughes has dedicated her $20,000 Elder Loan to the cause.

Long-term plans
Sherman's long-term plans include leasing the outbuildings of the historic Hyer Farm, which were moved to a nearby parcel when the Hyer property was razed for the new state highway bypass. He envisions renting the Hyer buildings to food artisans and linking the two farmsteads by rebuilding a historic cattle bridge as a pedestrian crossing.

The Robb Barn will become a restaurant featuring local organic food. The Robb Barn will become a restaurant featuring organic fruits and vegetables along with bread, cheese and wine crafted by local artisans.

Curtis Beus, WSU Extension Agent for Clallam County, is pleased with the Sherman/Farmland Fund partnership. "We're losing prime land around here so fast it makes your heart ache," says Beus. What Steffan and the Farmland Fund are doing together helps to slow this down and keep local food on our tables."

The PCC Farmland Fund saved its first farm in 2000. Renamed the Delta Farm, this old, established 100-acre property near the mouth of the Lower Dungeness River is now leased to organic farmer Nash Huber and is growing his famous carrots.

The Shipley Fields (outlined in white) will be farmed organically. The dark tree line follows Sequim's first irrigation canal. The Shipley Fields (outlined in white) will be farmed organically. The dark tree line follows Sequim's first irrigation canal.

The Fund chose to act once again on the Sequim prairie because of its combination of fertile soil, long growing season, and imminent threat of rapid development. The Shipley Fields, historically part of the Robb Farm, satisfy all four of the Fund's criteria: prime quality soil, a functioning landscape, rural community, and wildlife habitat. Protected habitat includes an active bald eagle nest and a corridor of native trees and forage shrubs along a cultural resource — Sequim's first irrigation canal.

The PCC Farmland Fund works to secure and preserve threatened farmland in Washington State and move it into organic production. The Fund is a 501(c)3 non-profit land trust registered with the Washington Secretary of State. For more information, contact the Fund at 4201 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, 206-547-1222, email or visit PCC Farmland Fund web page.

Navigation