Legislature OKs hefty grant for Friends of the Fields

Finn Hall Farm is one step closer to being preserved as farmland forever.

An application for 50 percent of the cost to preserve the farm, submitted by Friends of the Fields to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office, was approved by the state Legislature. The project is slated to receive $876,000 if a match can be raised.

"We were mentally prepared to accept the disappointment of not getting the funds this year due to the economic situation in Washington state," said Patty McManus-Huber, Friends of the Fields fundraising chairwoman.

"We feel very grateful that the Legislature decided to fund up to $70 million for many agricultural and recreational projects throughout the state."

Located in the Agnew area, Finn Hall Farm has been owned and operated by the Jarvis family for eight decades. Currently the land is used to grow hay and raise beef cattle.

The Friends' goal is to preserve Finn Hall Farm's 50 acres in perpetuity with an agricultural conservation easement. Once an easement is placed on the property, ownership will remain in the hands of John and Carmen Jarvis, who may continue to operate the farm or lease it to one of the nearby farmers who have expressed interest in the land.

"I'm getting to the age where I'm going to have to retire soon," John Jarvis, 78, said.

"Yes, I could sell the land for people to build houses on but I'm not crazy about looking out my window and seeing houses in the middle of what's supposed to be an alfalfa field.

"When this opportunity arose, we thought it sounded right for us."

So far, the Friends have raised about $200,000 in private donations and earnings, including a $55,000 pledge by the North Olympic Land Trust.

To raise the remaining funds to match the Recreation and Conservation grant, the Friends' have applied for a grant from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. The application has been submitted and the outcome should be announced by the end of the month, according to Bob Caldwell, Friends treasurer.

In the meantime, the Friends continue to actively seek financial support.

"Until that easement is signed and recorded, we will continue our fundraising efforts and welcome donations from the community," McManus-Huber said.

"We are confident that we can preserve an important and productive piece of prime farmland forever."

When all is said and done, it will cost nearly $1.8 million to buy the development rights to the Finn Hall Farm, Caldwell said.

"If you want farmland, it's really costly these days.

"Fortunately, we have people out there who are willing to pick up some of the cost themselves."

The Jarvises are helping reduce the cost by donating the rights on a 5-acre parcel of the land, worth about $250,000.

"We wanted to do our part to make this project go," Jarvis said.

"I suppose it will help on our income taxes as well."

Ashley Miller can be reached at ashleyo@

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