“We must listen to the land when we talk about economic and community development,” said District 2 County Commissioner David Sullivan, in addressing the audience at Sunfield Farm on April 16, 2005. The event celebrated the permanent protection of an 81-acre farm in Port Hadlock, Washington.
About 75 members of Jefferson Land Trust, partner agencies and city, county and state elected officials met in an open field on Saturday, April 16, 2005 to celebrate the final acquisition and permanent protection of Sunfield Farm in Port Hadlock, Washington. This achievement is a major milestone in the creation of an innovative community vision on the Olympic Peninsula. Sunfield Farm is a model of community collaboration which brings youth education, sustainable land use, local agriculture, and rural redevelopment together in one pioneering project.
Right before the ceremony began, the sun broke through clouds, stopping a cold morning drizzle – a sign, which many interpreted as a good omen for the new youth education and land conservation project.
For the past three years, Sunfield Education Association, Jefferson Land Trust, Jefferson County Conservation District, and many community supporters have been working to save an 81-acre historic dairy farm from residential development. In 2001, the land went on the market, platted for 5 acre home-sites. More than 180 individuals, businesses, and local, state and federal agencies contributed resources ranging from $1 to $165,000 to preserve this farm and its 50 acres of valuable farmland, including prime agricultural soils. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded Jefferson Land Trust a $165,000 grant for Sunfield Farm under the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program in 2004. The Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund provided the local matching funds required to obtain the federal grant. Additional funding was provided by the PCC Farmland Fund, created in 1999 by PCC Natural Markets, Orcas Anthroposophical Trust, and many individual donors from across the nation.
Jefferson Land Trust, a local non-profit land conservation organization, has been working in east Jefferson County since 1989 to protect special wildlife habitat, shorelines, wetlands, working forest and agricultural lands, salmon habitat and open spaces.
The conservation easement acquired by Jefferson Land Trust permanently protects 43 acres of agricultural fields, 7 acres of wetlands, and 26 acres of forest and wildlife habitat. Five acres of the property are designated outside of the conservation easement to permit construction of an educational center.
Sunfield Education Association, a small grassroots non-profit organization run by volunteers and a small staff, spearheaded this effort. The group envisions the farm as a model of sustainable land use and education. Specifically, youth educational programs provide participants with an appreciation of where our food comes from, an understanding of sustainable farming, a respect for the balance between nature, agriculture and our human needs, and training in entrepreneurial skills, community service, and land stewardship. A K-8 Waldorf school adjacent to the conserved land, will provide education in a farm based setting. A Food Share project will provide skills training, organic produce, and a sense of self-sufficiency to local families in need. An active organic farm operation, using biodynamic methods, provides a of local produce for the region.
Educational and farm programs are currently active on Sunfield Farm. The Pi Program of Chimacum Schools will be visiting the farm this spring to plant a row of food for those in need! A native plant project will also be initiated this spring, providing opportunities for local youth to propagate native plants to be used for local restoration projects.