Island County, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and several other entities are working with a family to ensure a large swath of property near Penn Cove will remain picturesque farmland.
The Muzzall family, the owners of 3 Sisters Beef, negotiated a conservation easement to preserve 113 acres of farmland located north of Penn Cove.
Currently the land trust is going through the public process to secure the final $69,000 worth of Island County Conservation Futures Funds to finish the deal.
The proposal, which is currently undergoing review, would be the last bit of funding that included a $400,000 Conservation Futures Fund award the Board of Island County Commissioners awarded in 2012 and a $460,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Conservation Futures is funded by a 6.25 cent per $1,000 assessed property value tax. Money raised by the can be used to acquire open space, agricultural land and timber land.
Owner Ron Muzzall, who is the fourth-generation of his family to farm on Whidbey Island, said the easement will ensure his property remains in agricultural production and will providing the capital needed to invest in his business selling beef directly to the consumer.
“After a while, you become attached to the land as a farm,” Muzzall said. The Muzzalls, who sell grass-fed beef under the name 3 Sisters Beef, raises cows, chickens and hogs on 600 acres scattered throughout north and central Whidbey Island.
The Muzzall’s operation has changed during the early years of the 21st century. The longtime dairy farm switch to selling grass fed beef directly to consumers in recent years.
The family recently opened up a retail store in the San de Fuca school house located on Highway 20 near Penn Cove.
Local conservationists are excited about the easement because it protects a pristine view scape on a visible part of Whidbey Island.
“It’s a really exciting conservation easement for us because it’s on the north side of Ebey’s Reserve where there is little farm protection,” said Pat Powell, executive director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. Last year, 17 acres of farmland off Arnold Road near Penn Cove was protected in an easement. She also noted that the National Park Service placed a scenic easement at Grasser’s Hill.
Powell said the Muzzall’s will lose some development rights through the easement buy will be able to alter their farming business in the future.
“This easement allows them a lot of flexibility to change what they produce depending on market changes,” Powell said.
Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, said the Muzzall Farm is a critical family farm on the northeast part of the reserve.
He noted that it’s a Washington Centennial Farm, which is a farm that has been continuously owned by the same family for 100 years.
“The Muzzall family has its own set of important stories to tele and through this easement, those stories will be available for generations to come,” Preiss said. He added that it’s important to recognize that the family made a choice in deciding to get an easement.
The Land Trust had secured the Conservation Futures Fund award last year before an appraisal was made on the proposal. Currently several volunteer groups are evaluating the $69,000 proposed award.