Grant to Help Protect Young’s Farm (AZ)

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a $1.75 million grant towards the purchase of an easement on this 300-acre farm in Dewey, Arizona. The farm is a popular education venue for local school children and host several public festivals. Private donations are needed to complete purchase of the easement.

DEWEY, Arizona, 10/8/02– The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced an award of $1.75 million for the purchase of a conservation easement on Young’s Farm in Dewey, Arizona. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, applied for the grant in partnership with the Central Arizona Land Trust (CALT), from the federal Farmland Protection Program (FPP) to prevent the sale for development of this unique 300-acre working farm.

The first of its kind in Arizona, the grant represents half of the funds needed to purchase the farm’s development rights and allows members of the four-generation Young family to continue to own and work the farm.

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service is very excited about the opportunity to help preserve Young’s Farm,” said Mike Somerville, Arizona state conservationist for the NRCS. “This effort will serve as the cornerstone of future efforts to preserve important farmland throughout Arizona.”

In order to raise the remaining money, the Youngs, TPL, and CALT will appeal to the 200,000 visitors expected to attend the farm’s annual Pumpkin Festival this month to make small voluntary contributions to help save the well known and loved farm. People from around Arizona visit the farm during the festival-held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during October-to pick their own pumpkins and enjoy crafts, games, corn mazes, entertainment, smoked turkey drumsticks, homemade ice cream, and barbeque. The project partners will also seek funds from other sources, including foundations, businesses and individuals, to complete the transaction.

One of the few agricultural operations of its kind in the state, Young’s Farm is located southeast of the junction of Highways 69 and 169 near the rapidly growing communities of Prescott Valley and Prescott, and within a short drive from the greater Phoenix area.

The farm contains a one-mile stretch of the Agua Fria River, which the Young family has successfully restored. It provides numerous benefits to the local community as well as to between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors from around the state and region each year. The farm grows a wide variety of produce-including sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, hay and turkeys-much of which is sold to the public at the adjacent Young’s Farm Market. Through the vision and hard work of the Young family, the farm also offers educational opportunities for school children that demonstrate the practice and importance of agriculture, and numerous social activities and festivals held throughout the year.

According to Becky Ruffner, president of the CALT board of directors, “We have had a tremendous response from the community already. Donations have been coming in steadily since we began this program to save the farm several years ago. Clearly preservation of this cultural resource is something the entire state supports.”

Gary Young of Young’s Farm said, “The deep and rich lakebed soil of this valley deserves sustainable farming practices and protection from development. Preserving local food production is the right thing to do for today and the future.”

“Young’s Farm is an Arizona institution, and TPL is honored to be a partner in ensuring its future as a working farm,” said Maria Baier, Arizona conservation finance and marketing director for TPL. “We are enthusiastic proponents of the Farmland Protection Program and the good work it can accomplish, and are grateful to Congress, the USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service for acknowledging the Young Farm project with this important grant.”

In May, as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, Congress provided an increase in conservation spending on agricultural-related lands. The new law provides the Farmland Protection Program with $600 million in matching funds over six years to buy development rights on agricultural lands.

“Keeping Young’s Farm in production is a great benefit to the Young family and more importantly a step in preserving the character and economy of our state,” said Congressman Bob Stump, R-AZ. “I’m extremely pleased that the Farmland Protection Program monies passed in the 2002 Farm Bill will be used to preserve this important piece of Arizona’s agricultural heritage.”

Like the productive lands of many farms and ranches throughout Arizona and the rest of the country, Young’s Farm is under threat of development for non-agricultural uses. The Youngs would have to sell their farm within the next few years unless their efforts to continue farming can be supported by the sale of their development rights. Earlier this year, TPL negotiated an option with the Youngs to purchase the farm’s development rights. The Youngs, TPL, and CALT, in consultation with NRCS, agreed to the provisions and restrictions of a conservation easement that will be put in place once the development rights are sold. If the purchase is successfully completed, the easement will be held in perpetuity and monitored by CALT.

The Trust for Public Land and the Central Arizona Land Trust have forged a strong partnership for conservation, beginning with TPL’s assistance in founding CALT in 1989. The organizations helped the city of Prescott pass a conservation finance measure and complete four open space land acquisitions over the past two years.

Tax deductible contributions to help save Young’s Farm may be sent to CALT at P. O. Box 1050, Prescott, AZ 86302.