PROTECTED: Jenne Farm purchase was a nail-biter

"The new owners the Jenne Farm, which sits smack in the middle of Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve, say they didn't realize they even wanted a farm until a couple of months ago - when they saw an ad in the back of the Seattle Times' Pacific magazine.The 138-acre farm was the last unclaimed part of the late Robert Pratt's estate. Local preservationists worried that it would be divided into tracts for trophy homes. It was on the back page with all those million-dollar homes, Fran Einterz said. They were marketing it divided into 12 parcels. Joyce and I panicked and called Rob (Harbour).Einterz and his wife, Joyce Peterson, have lived on Whidbey for more than 20 years. They view the reserve as an invaluable resource, one that would have been permanently scarred by the addition of several new trophy homes.So together, the couple began working with Rob Harbour, manager of the historic reserve, to buy the farm. They closed the deal, worth about $900,000, on March 24.We're idea rich and cash poor, Einterz said Wednesday, as he and Peterson cleaned up around their 1900-era farmhouse. We had no real plan when we bought it except to not see the place cut into lots and to preserve its agricultural nature.Einterz said he and Joyce begged, borrowed and scraped together everything we had and took out a loan to buy the farm. Now they hope to sell the development rights to the National Park Service and keep leasing about 100 acres to local farmers.Other ideas include fixing up the old house and perhaps opening a small tea room or restaurant.Our intention is to keep it as close to how it is now, Einterz said. We definitely do not intend to split the parcels up.Which is what very nearly happened.The Jenne purchase represents the resolution of a recent crisis for the reserve trust board, Harbour said. The reserve exists to protect the 17,000-acre reserve from development. Sometimes, it buys development rights directly from property owners, using federal or donated dollars. Sometimes, it works with public, private, state and federal agencies, like the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Lands, to seal a deal for preservation.The Jenne land was an unusually rough deal, Harbour said, with an unusual ending.First, the reserve worked with a conservation-minded buyer for more than a year, only to have him back out of the sale at the last moment.That was two months ago.Meanwhile, the land was being listed by local Realtor Sandy Roberts, Harbour said, adding there was a very real chance the 138-acre farm would have been divided into 13 10-acre building sites.Then Einterz and Peterson stepped in. Harbour said he was surprised the local couple stepped forward and stuck with the process to buy the land.I was used to working with larger conservation agencies like TPL (Trust for Public Lands) and TNC (The Nature Conservancy), Harbour said. And it was really satisfying that a local concerned couple could pull off what looked impossible. Now that Einterz have pulled off seemed impossible, they're focusing on ways t make it become profitable. Meanwhile, they're down on the farm.One of the first priorities is to fix up the barn, Einterz said. We just want to keep this farm intact as much as possible."

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