Community Saves Historic Zollinger Farm (UT)

Logan, UT, 5/16/2006 -The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the permanent preservation of Zollinger Fruit and Tree Farm as agricultural open space. TPL, with the support of federal and state grants, the landowners, regional foundations, local residents and Providence City, raised $1,478,000 in public and private funds for the purchase of some of the farm’s development rights.

“Our family would like to thank the people at The Trust for Public Land,” said Ron Zollinger, third-generation owner and manager of the farm. “They have been very helpful and pleasant to work with. This is one of the few organizations that is effective in helping landowners realize another option besides development.”

Zollinger Farm is located between Logan and River Heights, near Providence in Cache County. A 48-acre orchard of apples and nursery stock, the farm has been in the Zollinger family for over 100 years. It is an authentic place for families to experience the historic life of the region and taste local food-Zollinger Farm apple cider, a blend of juices from apples grown on the farm, is legendary. And for its neighbors, it is a beautiful and welcome visual break in an increasingly developed valley.

Said Holly Daines, a neighbor, “We are delighted with the preservation of Zollinger farm! All of our children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy the open, green space of this farm land. They will watch apple trees blossom in the spring, buy apples fresh from the tree in autumn and enjoy cider all winter-a small taste of our valley’s agricultural heritage. The Trust for Public Land played a pivotal role in making this possible. Their organization has both the expertise and the dedication to make projects like this, which enhance our community, a reality.”

With increasing population growth-according to the US Census, Cache County’s population grew by 30.2% between 1990 and 2000)-farmlands, with their beauty and access to water rights, are especially vulnerable to development. The Trust for Public Land estimates that development consumes more than 600 acres-almost one square mile-of Cache County farmland each year. The loss of farmland has serious implications for the region’s economy, character, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and the quality of life of its residents. But facing increased farming expenses, changing family priorities, and rapidly rising land values that prevent farms from expanding, many farmers have had few options other than selling their land for development.

The solution for the Zollinger family was the sale to TPL of a conservation easement that extinguishes some development rights and uses of the property. The Zollinger family will continue to own and manage the farm while the community is assured that the property will remain in agriculture, with all of the beauty and natural and cultural resource values that implies. TPL conveyed the easement to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food with the responsibility for compliance with its provisions in perpetuity.

“I think landowners who enter into a program like this need to be committed to their stewardship over the property. The conservation of this land was our family’s objective and now it’s up to me and my son to continue with the kind of stewardship that keeps this property something the community can be proud of,” said Ron Zollinger.

The farm is an increasingly rare piece of Cache Valley’s heritage landscape. Throughout the community, residents and elected officials recognized the value of keeping the farm as it is. Providence City and more than a dozen private individuals and foundations stepped forward to help TPL raise $80,000. The funds were needed to match state LeRay McAllister Critical Lands Conservation Fund and federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program grants ($300,000 and $686,000 respectively), a grant from the George S. and Dolores Dor? Eccles Foundation ($40,000), and a contribution of 25 percent of the easement’s value by the Zollinger family ($369,500).

“Without donations from people in Cache Valley, TPL could not have met the matching requirements of the federal funding,” says TPL-Utah Director Shauna Kerr. “But everyone we asked, people like Dan and Manon Russell and their son Dan, Jr., Scott Watterson, Peter and Holly Daines, and many others, spoke so warmly about what this farm means to them and contributed generously.”

The elected leaders of Providence recognized the value of preserving what makes Cache Valley so special and contributed $2,500 to the fundraising campaign. While the River Heights City Council also approved of making a contribution, no funds could be made available within the timeline necessary to complete the project.

Todd Weston, Mayor of River Heights, his wife Joyce, and their son Sam and daughter-in-law Judy Weston contributed personally to the effort to preserve Zollinger Farm. Said Mayor Weston, “It is a personal thrill to me and my wife Joyce to see this beautiful farm and orchard land preserved as it is in perpetuity in our River Heights neighborhood. For many years our family farmed the adjacent land. Two of our sons and their families now live in homes adjacent to the Zollinger Farm. We have formed a close friendship with the Zollingers, beginning with Ron’s father Jesse, that has lasted a lifetime. I know of no other land in Utah that deserves to be conserved by the Trust for Public Land as does the Zollinger Farm. It is truly a Cache Valley treasure.”

This is the fourth Cache Valley farm that TPL has helped preserve. Since 2003, TPL has preserved 2,051 acres of agricultural lands valued at more than $5 million, including a farm in Millville and two in Paradise. Said Kerr, “Municipalities must weigh a desire to grow their tax base through development against the transformation of their community character and the costs of providing services to new development. Conservation of agricultural properties, especially those with public operations like Zollinger Farm, can vary land use, preserve heritage and character, provide local foods and jobs, and protect places where wildlife shares the land with people-without removing farmers from the land.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization with a mission to conserve land for people. TPL’s work is dedicated to improving the quality of life in American communities by conserving land where people live, work and play. Since 1985, TPL has conserved more than 41,000 acres, valued at over $66 million, of agricultural land, sites of cultural significance, wilderness, and trails and parks throughout Utah. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected two million acres nationwide.