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Preserving bounty of Dungeness farmland

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

With four different events, this week the North Olympic Land Trust celebrates both the harvest season and the trust’s recent successful efforts to preserve area farmland. The celebration culminates in the trust’s biggest fundraising event of the year — the  annual Friends of the Fields Harvest Dinner.

 

The events kick off Friday, Sept. 21, with the Habitat Farms Tour, a 3-mile hike through the Lower Dungeness area to show off 180 acres of protected land, including six conservation easements. Tour guides will provide details on the conservation efforts undertaken by the trust and others since 1995.

The two-hour hike begins at 10 a.m. at Bell Farm, which is just north of Jardin du Soleil on Sequim-Dungeness Way.

 

A full week of celebrating Nash’s Farm Store anniversary also begins Friday, with free samples all day and drawings for baskets of Nash’s produce.

 

The Reception with the Farmers, 6-8 p.m., includes more samples, live music and the unveiling of Nash’s new mural. (See page B-12.)

 

The event also will include a special poetry reading with nationally known poet and columnist Mary Lou Sanelli, who writes about gardening, food and community. Nash’s is at 4681 Sequim-Dungeness Way.

Saturday morning a tour of Dungeness Valley Creamery begins at 10 a.m. The family owned and operated farm, at 1915 Towne Road, produces raw milk. Creamery land was protected with a conservation easement in 2009.

 

That night the 13th annual Harvest Dinner kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Sunland Gold & Country Club.

The Harvest Dinner showcases local farms, food and chefs while raising funds for farmland conservation in Clallam County.

 

This year’s menu features foods from many local farms and the cookery of a number of local chefs, all under the direction of head chef Aaron Stark. Music will be provided by the Linda Dowdell Trio.

For reservations for either or both of the two farm tours, contact Lorrie Campbell at 417-1815, ext. 7, or drop Campbell a line at lorrie@nolt.org.

 

The tours are free. Reservations are appreciated, but not required.

 

To purchase a ticket for the Harvest Dinner, call 417-1815 or purchase one online at www.nolt.org. The cost per ticket is $85. The website also includes more information on each of the events.

Follow the money

The Harvest Dinners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. With matching funds provided through government grants, the trust has been able to purchase the development rights for hundreds of acres of local farmland, often with attendant wildlife habitat.

 

NOLT Executive Director Tom Sanford explained how it all works, saying land is reserved for agricultural use in perpetuity when the current owners either give away or sell a conservation easement on the property.

 

If they give it away, the value of the easement can be taken as a tax deduction.

 

The owners also may choose to sell the easement at market value.

 

The funds raised by the trust during the annual Harvest Dinner are used to purchase those easements.

 

Sanford said when Jeff and Debbie Brown, who owned the Dungeness Valley Creamery, decided to retire, they wanted to ensure their land would be preserved for farming. The sale of the “development rights” ensured their daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Ryan McCarthey, can continue to farm the land.

The Dungeness Valley Creamery land is part of the total of 550 acres that has been preserved throughout the Dungeness.

 

Sanford said it’s all part of an effort to maintain the rural nature of the land.

 

“It’s the reason we all moved here,” Sanford said. “It’s the fresh local food, great

viewscapes and just the rural nature of this area.”

 

Sanford said one lesson learned is that farmland and wildlife habitat go hand in hand.

 

He provided one example, saying that one of the best means of weed control is “getting the right birds in.”

He said the conservation effort has been led by “a series of dedicated landowners.”

 

“And we’re not done yet,” he added.

 

The North Olympic Land Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization serving the communities of the North Olympic Peninsula. For more information, see www.nolt.org.

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

Community Events, April 2014

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