A new model in farmland preservation

by Julie Kintzi, landowner at Orting Valley Farms 

This article was originally published in May 2010

I’m asked this question all the time: Why did you buy a farm that you will never personally farm? I respond: I was hungry, literally starving, to save farmland from the wide, insatiable mouth of development. I yearn for the once lush and productive farmland of the Kent valley that now only “grows” warehouses.

Last year I pursued a farm and a farmer to go with it. There are plenty of both — too many, in fact, for the limited resources available, not to mention the sea of barriers for farmers. I wanted to remove at least one.

I now understand the long uphill battle that farmers face just to get on land. I was inspired by impassioned people who dream of farming, especially those who are now in school hoping for a career as a farmer. There now are several beginning farmer programs in Washington state.

Yet my question remains: How do they get on land? How do they buy land on a beginning farmer’s income? The land is the ultimate classroom.

Over the past 10 years, I have watched the trust carefully and am immensely inspired by its work. I found the banking and real estate market largely bewildered by my vision. It took work to convince them that “investing” in the future of farmland was wise.

If I wasn’t going to make a bundle off that land, then why do it? Why not buy a second home? I ask you: Why not buy land that can be productive for you and the community?

The trust provides the most consistent support: an unyielding resource to farmers. The trust told me about Joel Blais and his dream of raising pastured pork and organic hops, and matched his desire with my passion for preserving farmland. Was this part of my initial vision? No. I stopped eating pork 20 years ago!

I decided securing land, believing in new farmers, and giving the community more food choices was more important. Saving this farm means that there is another option that is healthier for the environment, the community and the pigs.

So many people helped create Orting Valley Farms. Joel and I are in a partnership, legally, financially and philosophically. We’ve both put in countless hours of sweat, passion and effort, and this dream for both of us would not have happened without his contributions and his willingness to take the leap into full-time farming.

Joel and I weren’t the only ones who realized our dreams — the trust, the Ford family and Pierce County benefited, too. 

What’s next? Joel will eventually buy the farm from us and we will buy another. We have a waiting list of interested farmers.

Want to help? Follow my lead or invest in the trust so they can help more farmers realize their dream and preserve local, organic farmland forever.

Julie Kintzi leases 27 acres to Crying Rock Farm, part of the Orting Valley Farms project in Pierce County.

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