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Partners preserve 120-acre farm near Orting forever

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A 120-acre property will forever remain as a farm and habitat thanks to another successful public-private partnership in the Puyallup River Valley.

Pierce County, the PCC Farmland Trust and other farm advocates gathered Thursday, Oct. 18, to celebrate the purchase and preservation of the Reise Farm, located off Highway 162 near Orting. The farm was purchased in late September with a combination of funding from the Pierce County Conservation Futures program and private fundraising by the Trust. The Trust holds the deed and will manage the land.

"Farming is part of our heritage, and it remains an important component of our local economy and community," said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "That's why my 2013 budget proposal includes the hiring of a Farm Specialist in our planning department. With partners like PCC Farmland Trust, there will be many more opportunities to help farmers survive and thrive without feeling the pressure to sell their land for the development value."

The Reise Farm contains approximately 80 tillable acres - about half of which are in production under a lease with a neighboring farmer. The Trust is looking for someone to enter a lease-to-own arrangement for an additional 38 acres of farmland. The remaining 40 acres contain a wooded hillside that serves as a buffer to the South Hill community above, as well as the headwaters of Ball Creek, which flows into the Puyallup River. The Trust plans to restore the creek.

The transaction represents an important "first:" It's the first time Pierce County has obtained development rights that can be transferred and used in Tacoma or other urban areas. The goal of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program is to exchange farmland preservation for urban density.

"We operate statewide, but the Puyallup Valley holds a special place in our vision for the next few years as we hone in on what we can do to conserve farming," said Rebecca Sadinsky, executive director of PCC Farmland Trust. "Farming can contribute so much to the valley: preserving open space; conserving water; enriching soils; controlling erosion; holding water when the river runs high; producing local food for our tables, stores and our farmers markets; and preserving rural character."

Founded in the early 1900s, the property represents a pioneer farm in the Puyallup Valley. The Reise (pronounced rye cee) family had owned the property since the early 1930s. It currently produces corn, blueberries and pumpkins. The blueberry bushes date to World War II.

The purchase price was $1.4 million. Of that amount, $848,000 came from the Conservation Futures program, which dedicates a small portion of the property tax to the purchase and preservation of land for agriculture, open space and parks. The rest of the funding came from private fundraising by the Trust's supporters.

McCarthy, Sadinsky and other farm advocates noted that the county and the Trust also successfully preserved a 100-acre farm a few miles away in 2010. That property, known as Orting Valley Farms, is currently being farmed by three families.

 

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