Every day, we work to protect one of our most valuable natural resources: farmland. We protect farmland forever by working with landowners to remove their farm’s development potential, or by purchasing at-risk farmland with the goal of leasing or selling it to a local farmer. Conservation makes farmland more affordable and helps keep it productive into the future.
Threatened farmland sometimes needs direct intervention to ensure it stays available for future generations of farmers. We use tools in different combinations, depending on the context and needs of each specific project. Each tool ensures the permanent protection of farmland.
Use the slider above to learn about our range of tools for land conservation.
In exchange for the permanent removal of a farm’s development rights, we pay a landowner for the value of those rights, and commit to ensuring the soil, water, and open space on their property are available in perpetuity. Learn more about conservation easements.
When a farmer plans to sell their land at a cost that is prohibitive to a farm buyer, we are sometimes able step in and purchase a conservation easement at the time the property is sold. This approach not only protects the farm, but it enables the farm buyer to purchase the land at a more affordable price.
For certain high priority, highly threatened properties, we may pursue a Buy-Protect-Sell transaction. To implement this approach, we raise the capital necessary to purchase farmland and get it off the market quickly. From there, development potential is removed and we work to lease or sell the land back to a farmer.
“Without the help of conservation groups like Washington Farmland Trust, we absolutely would not be farming today. The land wouldn’t be here. We’d be sitting in somebody’s driveway.”Amy Moreno-Sills, Four Elements Farm
In order to protect farmland that has the most potential to benefit the environment, the community, and the local economy, we evaluate each property against three core criteria.
In order for a piece of land to stay in farming forever, we must first asses the quality of its natural resources, from soil and water to the land’s history of production or contamination. Our team combs through public data to consider soil quality, water availability, historical use, and future potential for growth. Farms that are larger than 20 acres, larger than the average farm in their county, zoned for agriculture, or that have existing water rights are typically more eligible for conservation.
Location and Threat
We know that farm businesses are more successful when they are close to markets and in close proximity to other farms. But the location of a property can also be key to potential collaboration and funding opportunities, or help determine what outside pressures (such as development, affordability, or climate change) put them at risk. Alongside community partners and stakeholders, we deploy sophisticated mapping and outreach processes to identify priority farmland for protection, and are aiming to expand our footprint across Washington State in the coming years.
Community and Ecological Benefits
At Washington Farmland Trust, we believe healthy farms benefit all of us. Sustainably managed farms have the potential to promote healthy habitat, restore waterways, mitigate floods, sustain rural economies, and connect us to the natural world. When we think about farmland conservation beyond the lens of local food and agriculture, we generate more opportunities for collaboration, public funding, and of course, community impact.
Partners make our work possible
To sustain a future for farming in Washington, we convene with farmers, local government, Tribal representatives, electeds, and other community stakeholders to build strategies for regional farmland protection and access. Below are a few of the many partners that make our conservation work possible.