Purchase of Coffelt’s Farm provides for future of local agriculture

The San Juan County Land Bank’s recent purchase of Vern and Sidney Coffelt’s Farm on Orcas Island has helped ensure a future for local agriculture. The 185-acre working farm spans Crow Valley, connecting Fowler’s Pond and Turtleback Mountain Preserve, and encompassing an expanse of scenic open-space, habitat resources, and productive agricultural land.

The Coffelts worked with the Land Bank 14 years ago to place a conservation easement on their farm that limited development and restricted future uses that could damage the land’s conservation value. The easement was an important step, but over the last few years the Coffelts realized that to keep the land in agriculture and make it available to the next generation of farmers was important to them and good for the community. Since there is no way to require a private buyer to grow food, Vern and Sidney looked at various options for ownership, including the American Farmland Trust. As it turns out, their vision for the future of the farm was a good fit with the Land Bank’s goal to protect working agricultural land in the county.

Today, Coffelt’s Farm raises grass-fed lamb and beef, pastured poultry, eggs, pork, wool products and a variety of seasonal produce and fruit.

“Vern and Sidney will continue to play a key role in the life of the farm,” says Orcas Land Bank commissioner Mary Blackstone. “Even though they plan to ‘retire’ in the next few years, they will live on the property and provide guidance during a transition to the next generation of farmers. Farming always has its uncertainty and challenges; however, we are confident Coffelt’s Farm will continue long into the future. We are very excited and pleased that the farm will be producing food for our community, maintaining the beauty and fertility of the land, and providing opportunities for learning.”

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