Photo by Seldon McKee
John Boulton’s vision, patience, and dedication are leaving a legacy of Quilcene farmland for generations to come. Photo by Selden McKee.
John Boulton looks out over the farm that has been in his family for 70 years, and knows it will continue to be a working farm for generations to come. His assurance comes from the fact that he has sold a conservation easement on his 142 acres of farmland to Jefferson Land Trust. The easement is a legal contract to keep the land intact as a working farm in perpetuity. It stays with the land and is binding on all future owners. This is the tenth working farm the Land Trust has protected with conservation easements.
Boulton’s father bought the land in 1944, but it had been in agricultural production from the early 1900’s. His family ran a dairy, and later raised beef cattle. The rich soils were continually replenished with cow manure mixed with wood shavings from a mill.
Now he leases the farm to Zach Wailand and Haley Olson of Dharma Ridge Farm, organic farmers who raise about 25 different vegetable crops on the land. In a pen behind the farm buildings, one of their resident farmers is raising pigs as well. Boulton hopes the couple will be able to buy the land in the near future. “They’ve been farming long enough to know the pitfalls, they are hard workers and have a good permanent crew,” he says.
From a young age Boulton has been committed to preserving family farms, having served on the Soil Conservation District Board for 57 years. When he first considered how best to keep his property a working farm forever, he realized “putting legal restrictions on the use of the land would work only if there were a watchdog to assure the protections were honored in the future.” He therefore worked with the Land Trust to transfer a conservation easement to the organization. The Land Trust monitors and enforces all of its easement in perpetuity, says Sarah Spaeth, executive director.
Grants from the Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund and the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program provided funding for purchase of the Boulton Farm easement.
“I’m not interested in making lots of money, but in keeping this farm intact as a working farm,” says Boulton. He does not want to see residential development on his land, as has happened to much farmland on the peninsula.
The Boulton Farm is a highly visible property in a small valley on Highway 101 north of Quilcene. Springs and creeks provide water for domestic and irrigation uses. The land’s high soil quality makes it suitable for fruit, vegetable and grain production, pasture and hay crops and animal husbandry. In addition, the farm has an historic barn, shop, corrals, a silo and three homes that provide housing for the farmers and their families.
The Land Trust has taken a strong role in preserving farmland in eastern Jefferson County, and has put over 600 acres under protection. The Boulton Farm further enhances the agricultural strength of the eastern Olympic peninsula, where many small organic farms provide fresh produce and meat to farmers’ markets, grocery stores and restaurants on the peninsula and further away.
“This working farm is the legacy I want to leave,” says Boulton. And with the Land Trust’s conservation easement, that legacy is assured.