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Skagit County program helps preserve dwindling farmland

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There’s pride in eating locally grown food. But land to grow that food is disappearing. Preservation efforts, like Skagit County’s, works to protect farmlands.

When you pick up a bag of red potatoes at the grocery, chances are they’re from Keith Morrison’s farm in Skagit Valley.

“There’s other growers here in the valley like us and they grow wonderful products too,” said Morrison, a fourth-generation farmer.

In addition to potatoes, Morrison grows vegetable seed crops, grass seed, and various grain crops. “It’s just a neat place to be,” he said.

But many farmlands like his are facing development pressure. “I’m looking to grow crops, they’re looking to grow buildings,” Morrison explained.

It’s estimated that Washington lost nearly 100,000 acres of farmland between 2001 and 2016. Morrison is on the advisory board of Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program, a county-funded initiative.

Recently it finalized projects that will protect more than 105 acres of farmland.

“It stops further development in the critical area where there’s a field," Morrison said.

The program purchases the landowner’s development rights. The owner still owns the land but keeps it for agricultural purposes.

To date, the program has protected more than 14,000 acres of farmland.

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