News

North Whidbey farm preserved for future generations

Roshel and Jennifer Muzzall work on a fence at 3 Sisters Family Farms off Scenic Heights Road. Fifth-generation farmers, the family recently sold a farming easement on 113 acres of property, permanently protecting it as farmland. - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Roshel and Jennifer Muzzall work on a fence at 3 Sisters Family Farms off Scenic Heights Road. Fifth-generation farmers, the family recently sold a farming easement on 113 acres of property, permanently protecting it as farmland.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

A land deal between a longtime farming family and a nonprofit group has resulted in the permanent preservation of 113 acres of pristine North Whidbey farmland.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust announced Wednesday that it reached an agreement with the Muzzall family, owners of 3 Sisters Family Farms, to purchase a farming conservation easement on their property along the north side of Scenic Heights Road overlooking Penn Cove.

Terms of the contract allow the family to keep farming the area forever, but leaves the development rights under the control of the land trust.

Both sides said they are pleased with the arrangement.

“This is huge,” said Jennifer Muzzall-Jones, a fifth-generation Muzzall family member to farm the property.

The deal furnished the family with needed capital —  the recession has been tough — and provides stability for future Muzzall generations, she said.

“We’re preserving farmland, which means we get to keep doing what we love,” she said.

Pat Powell, executive director of the land trust, said this was the biggest property preserved to date on the north side of Penn Cove within Ebey’s Landling National Historical Reserve.

The Muzzalls’ farm covers 800 acres of property, but the 113 acres protected serves as the central hub of the family’s farming operation.

The Muzzall’s business and their family’s history on Whidbey Island also made their land a good candidate for preservation, she said.

“It’s one of the finest working farms on Whidbey Island and it’s a century farm,” Powell said.

According to Ron Muzzall, Jennifer’s father, the deal has been in the works for about eight years and he is relieved all the details were finally hammered out.

“After working on something for so long, it’s nice to have it completed,” Ron Muzzall said.

It’s also a big relief as, without development rights, the property will be much easier, and cheaper, to pass on to his three daughters: Jennifer, Jessica and Roshel.

“This allows us to transfer the land to our kids without state tax or gifting issues,” he said.

Powell said the easement was sold for $920,000.

Island County Conservation Future Fund contributed $400,000 and the land trust put forward $60,000 but the bulk, $460,000, came from federal and state grant funding.

The land trust announced last month it had landed $2.2 million in funding from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

Along with covering part of the Muzzall easement, the funding will go toward the purchase of another 70 acres connected to the recently acquired Trillium Community Forest, purchase and restore about 300 acres of Crockett Lake and fund restoration of native prairie at the Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Preserve on Engle Road.

 

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