Farm owners sell rights to save land

Owners want the 80 acres to be used for agriculture

Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

PALMER - The owners of an 80-acre Palmer farm have sold the development rights to preserve the land.

Debra and James McCormick sold the rights to the Mat-Su Borough and U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure it will continue to be used for agriculture.

The parcel has been farmed since 1935. The McCormicks bought the farm 25 years ago.

With the beautiful views surrounding the property, it's easy to see why the McCormicks receive many offers from developers and gravel operators who want to buy it.

"We've been literally offered millions for it and turned it down because it might be worth a lot of money, but it's our way of life," James McCormick said in an interview in March 2008.

That's when the McCormicks were fighting the borough to protect their land because it was in the path of one of three routes proposed for the Bogard Road extension.

Assembly members backed off after the McCormicks spoke up, but now the Assembly has approved the deal to protect the Colony-era farm.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the borough are pitching in more than $500,000 each to purchase the development rights for the farm.

The Alaska Farmland Trust helped facilitate the deal. It said farmland in the Valley keeps disappearing and this is the best way to stop that from happening.

"The significance of it is that in the Mat-Su Valley, only 1.8 percent of the best of the best soils that we have is for farming," said Steve Gallagher with the Alaska Farmland Trust.

The McCormicks' land is the second property in the area to be sold to government agencies to preserve it as farmland. The borough spent $300,000 in 2008 to buy development rights on 40 acres off Fairview Loop.

Jennie Bettine with the Conservative Patriots Group said the borough shouldn't spend taxpayer money to protect farms.

"We believe in taking care of this great state but we also believe that there is $600,000 of borough money that is being spent frivolously and it's just ridiculous," Bettine said.

She said that if taxpayers aren't asking for the spending, they should not be forced to pay for it.

Still, Bettine said, "The McCormick farm is a beautiful place and if they want to conserve it, they should do so."

James McCormick told KTUU-TV the $1.1 million from selling the development rights will keep him and his family farming well into the future.

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