Northwest NEWS

December 20, 1999

Home & Garden

FARM LLC breaks ground at 124th & SR-202

Roger Calhoon

Roger Calhoon, general manager for FARM LLC, planted the first tree on the group's newly-acquired property.
Photo courtesy of FARM LLC.

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   FARM LLC, a Sammamish Valley farm preservation group, broke ground on their new property by planting a Red Sunset Maple on the rise overlooking the 47-acre agriculturally-zoned land at the northwest corner of NE 124th and SR-202 (Woodinville-Redmond Rd.) last Tuesday, Dec. 14.

   "This tree is just the first of many trees, vegetables, and berries to grace this land, now that it is dedicated permanently to agriculture," said Roger Calhoon, FARM LLC general manager. "This purchase will preserve land for farming and preserve farmers. We thank Tom Quigley for donating this tree from Olympic Nursery."

   The group intends to reserve 17 acres for their own farming, including one acre set aside for pea patch plots open to the community, said Calhoon. They plan to lease plots of the remaining 30 acres to other organic farmers, and will invite those farmers to join them in selling food from stands on the property.

   FARM LLC is the acronym for "Farm Acquisition, Research, and Management, a Washington State Limited Liability Company." Formed in February of 1999 and comprised of Root Connection members, it bought the former Schiessl property last month, said FARM LLC spokesperson Christine Dubois. They then sold the development rights to King County under King County's Farmland Preservation Program, which guarantees the land will always be used in accordance with its present agricultural land zoning.

   "Development rights are similar to water or mineral rights," said Dubois. "The Preservation Program limits the number of buildings and driveways allowed on the land, which must remain 95 percent tillable." Last March, Farm LLC also bought the Root Connection land, which had been leased by Root Connection founder Claire Thomas for the past 12 years, and the adjacent Living Legacy Community Ranch, said Dubois.

   "The Root Connection was the first CSA--Community Supported Agriculture farm, or 'share farm'--in the Northwest, and is still the largest," said Dubois. "That is our proof that this farm can succeed. We will plant only buckwheat and rye grass for the first year. Plowing that under will discourage weeds and greatly enrich the soil, which is especially important when you don't use pesticides. We will plant our first food crops in spring of 2001. We will sell apples, vegetables, and flowers, and will probably have a 'u-pick' berry patch.

   "The County approached Claire about this property. The previous owners didn't want to sell development rights to the county because they wanted to sell to a commercial developer. Now it is preserved for the entire community. The Farmland Preservation Program is a model for the whole country."

   Thomas said the Sammamish Valley soil is so rich, it could grow enough food to supply everyone in Redmond and Woodinville. The land now owned by FARM LLC could provide food for Woodinville, and the 12,600 acres currently preserved by the Farmland Preservation Program could produce food for all King County residents, including Seattle, said Thomas. Those calculations are based on supplying 200 pounds of food per person per year, she said.