Farm Land Trust buys GRuB garden to preserve it

The farmland in west Olympia cultivated by the Garden Raised Bounty program has been permanently preserved for growing food.

The South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust purchased the 1.18 acres of urban farmland Friday. Partnering with GRuB, the Farm Land Trust used a grant they received in 2013 from Thurston County’s Conservation Futures Program for the purchase.

GRuB uses the land for its youth programming, bringing community members together to grow food and learn about agriculture.

GRuB executive director Katie Rains said they’ve been leasing the land since 1996 for $1 per year. The purchase gives them a 99-year lease.

“We’re very thankful to our neighbors for doing this, and our gratitude goes out to the board and hardworking staff of the Farm Land Trust,” Rains said. “We appreciate them choosing to partner with us.”

The Farm Land Trust is dedicated to preserving working farmlands, keeping them accessible for local farmers. The partnership also works to foster the next generation of farmers and farmland owners.

The average U.S. farmer age is 57, and more than 60 percent of country farmland is expected to change ownership in the next 20 years, the trust said in a news release.

Rains said the preservation of the land will be crucial for GRuB. With the expected growth of the Olympia area, GRuB could not compete with developers or others interested in the land, she said.

Now GRuB will be able to own the buildings on the land and have a chance to create more viable farm infrastructure.

“For a small farm, that’s a pretty big deal,” Rains said.

GRuB has its own school program as well as an intern program for college students, teaching them about sustainable farming. They also have programs for veterans.

Rains said they work with between 250 and 300 youths who produce more than 10,000 pounds of produce annually. Food grown on the land is donated to the Thurston County Food Bank, goes home with low-income youths, and is sold through a farm stand and farmers markets to support GRuB’s operations.

“There really is a place at the table and in the field for everyone in our community. There are opportunities for people to dig in the soil and come and learn, there’s an opportunity to connect with folks and learn where their food comes from,” Rains said. “We’re happy to serve as the bridge connecting people with those opportunities.”