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Central Whidbey farming preserved

The Borden family was involved with a land transaction with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to preserve more than 80 acres of farmland. - Photo courtesy of Dan Petersen
The Borden family was involved with a land transaction with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to preserve more than 80 acres of farmland.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Dan Petersen

A land deal between two families and a local conservation organization will help ensure farming remains a vibrant and visible part of Central Whidbey Island.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust announced this week a deal with Freeman Boyer and the Borden family to preserve more than 80-acres of agriculture land and woods.

"It's a chance to keep a real beautiful piece of land beautiful," Mark Borden, who is also the emergency department director at Whidbey General Hospital, said Friday morning.

The Borden family grows hay and barley on 83-acres of land located in the heart of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. Borden said he is providing a local, affordable source of hay for horse owners.

Borden, who owned an orchard when he lived in California, is also exploring the possibility of growing apples on the farm.

Freeman Boyer is from a longtime farming family. Boyer's grandfather started farming on Whidbey Island in 1890. His father continued the tradition and Boyer fallowed suit. He farmed and raised sheep until he retired in 1987, according to a news release from the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

The Land Trust signed an agreement with Boyer to purchase four lots totaling 45 acres, and then assigned the agreement to the Bordens. The Bordens took ownership of the property and then sold a conservation easement to the Land Trust that protects the Boyer property along with 38 acres the Bordens already own. That easement will protect the property from future development, according to the release.

The Land Trust used a portion of $1.5 million of grant money, that was provided by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition and the Federal Farmland and Ranch Protection Program, to pay for the transaction, said Chris Hilton, land protection specialist for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. The Land Trust will co-hold the conservation easement along with Island County.

Hilton said the easement will give the Bordens the flexibility to adjust their farming practices while preventing future development from taking place.

Located between Crockett Prairie and Ebey's Prairie, the Borden property will help connect other protected lands located within the Reserve, said Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve.

He added there's an integrated trail component in the deal that will help further connect the Reserve.

Erin and Mark Borden are relative newcomers to Whidbey Island. In addition to his medical background, Mark was a successful orchardist in California and has 25 years of experience as a falconer. Erin holds a doctorate in entomology from Washington State University and serves on the Whidbey Island Conservation District board. They have three children, Konrad, Riley and Drake, according to the news release.

"The Land Trust is very excited about completing this first of many agricultural conservation easements it is working on in Ebey's Reserve," Hilton said in a news release. "Freeman wanted to sell as he had retired from farming, the Bordens wanted to expand their farm acreage and the Land Trust wanted to hold the conservation easement to ensure all 83-acres are forever protected for farming. In doing this, we limited development on the property to one house instead of the eight homes that could have been built."

The Land Trust is working to secure more than $4 million in grants to help purchase conservation easements that will protect another 230 acres.

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