Two Puyallup Valley farm families have bought 116 acres of prime valley soil in the last piece of a deal to keep suburban development away and complete the largest agriculture conservation project in Pierce County history.
The Sidhu family of Sidhu Farms acquired 70 acres of the former Matlock Farm in the Alderton-McMillin area. A local family farming group called Alderton LLC acquired the remaining 46 acres.
The Sidhus primarily grow berries and vegetables and are known on the regional farmers market circuit and in organic produce circles. Alderton mostly grows Christmas trees on its current property.
The deal, brokered by the nonprofit conservation group Forterra, will keep a productive and well-known swath of farmland from being developed into housing units or other nonfarm uses. Brothers Ivan and Dave Matlock grew strawberries and raspberries there from the mid-1950s until 1987, and it has endured as a working farm for a century.
“There are many, many people throughout Tacoma and the South Sound who took the bus out there to work summers picking berries when they were kids,” said Kimberly Freeman, who manages Pierce County’s Conservation Futures program.
The county spent $1.73 million in county and state funds to buy the development rights on a total of 153 acres owned by the Matlocks. As part of that price, the county now owns 37 of those acres, located near the Puyallup River and Ball Creek, and will set them aside for environmental and habitat restoration.
The remaining 116 acres were bought by the Sidhus and Alderton for active farming. They paid a total of about $1.27 million.
The farmers were given a discounted price because, under a county conservation easement, they can use the land only for agriculture or open space; they can’t turn around and sell it to a developer.
Kamal Sidhu, part of a three-generation farming family from India, said he’s excited to expand the family’s operation beyond the 28 acres the Sidhus bought from the Matlocks in 2007. His family had been leasing other land in the valley, only to see it sold and paved for development.
“We will be growing several different vegetables, but mostly berries,” Sidhu said Tuesday. “We are going to move everything but our blueberries to that new plot.”
The Matlocks will receive a total of $3 million for the land and the development rights, said Jordan Rash, Forterra’s conservation director.
Ivan Matlock praised the deal in an interview with The News Tribune last year when the final pieces were coming together.
“We feel we should be rewarded for (our) long-term investment in the property,” said Matlock, who was 80 at the time. “If agriculture can continue because of this maneuver, I really think everybody wins.”