Getting home from a wonderful vacation, I read in the Feb. 15 Whidbey News-Times an article on the front page about leases for Engle Farms awarded to an organic potato grower.
The Engle Family farmed land that is now in the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve since 1852, when W.B. Engle landed on the shores of Ebey’s Landing on Captain Coupe’s ship.
The Engles have been good stewards of the land for over 150 years. When the historic reserve was identified, I thought the intention was to preserve the historic value of the farms and the existing farmers.
While it is true that around 1997 we filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is a reorganization bankruptcy, we were never foreclosed on. By selling all the cattle, and the development rights off Bob and Cheryl’s land, all debts were satisfied with payment in full plus interest.
With all the cattle gone, the Engles’ needed to develop a plan to be able to continue to farm. The Trust for Public Land got involved and purchased Engle Farms land and buildings on Farm 1 and Farm 2. That led to the National Park Service buying two farms on Fort Casey Road. We were then allowed to lease the farms on an annual basis.
Some years it was an “in kind” payment, and some years regular rent payments.
We have never missed a time where our obligations to the Park Service were not met. It has not been easy as during that time the Park Service has had several different managers.
When one of the loafing sheds needed a new roof, the park manager, at that time, had the roof torn off and not replaced. Because of that, we lost at least a thousand pounds of feed per day. We were limited to how many head of cattle there could be in the loafing sheds.
The sheds were originally designed to house 1,000 milk cows.
Recently, when it came to another bid process, we were told that it would be for 10 years.
That finally made sense, as it is extremely hard to farm on a one-year lease. We filed a bid in October 2019. Nothing was announced until Feb. 11, 2020.
Have you ever smelled a rotten potato? It stinks, just like we have been treated. We don’t want to quit farming. The newspaper says in a quote by Roy Zipp, “While the leases are a long-term solution … the ultimate goal is still to exchange or sell the farms someday.”
Interesting that the Engles have never been offered the option to buy back the farms.
We need support that comes in the form of a loud protest and letter-writing to the National Park Service and/or your federal representatives.