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In Record Deal, More Than 150 Acres Of Farmland Preserved In Pierce County

Hannah Letinich
Ivan Matlock with Kamal Sidhu, who bought 70 acres of the former Matlock family farm.


More than 150 acres along the Puyallup River will be preserved forever as farmland and wildlife habitat. It's the biggest agriculture conservation deal in the history of Pierce County.


The farmland has been in the Matlock family since the mid-1940s. During the height of operation they grew more than one million pounds of berries a year and hired thousands of school children to help bring in the harvest and learn what a day’s work on a farm felt like.


For the last 16 years, the family has leased out the land to other farmers. A few years ago, Ivan Matlock, who is now 81, was looking to get the family out of the agriculture business for good and put in a call to Forterra, a nonprofit conservation group.


“[I said,] 'You want to preserve ag land and we have some of the best there is. Is there some way we can work together and preserve this lad and but the asset from us at the same time?' And they said, 'Well, we haven’t really had much experience in this, but it sure sounds like a good idea and let’s see what we can do,'” Matlock said.


Forterra worked out a $3 million deal for the Matlocks. Pierce County bought the development rights to the land and and 37 acres for wildlife habitat. Sidhu Farms, which grows berries, purchased 70 acres and 46 acres were sold to a business that raises Christmas trees. Because the development rights were already sold off, the farmers were able to buy the land at a lower price.


At one time, the property was destined to become a housing development. Before that plan failed, there was an attempt to turn the land into a nine-hole golf course.  

Jordan Rash, Forterra’s conservation director, says his next big project involves preserving more than 100 acres of land near Roy for farming. It use to be prairie. Rash says there is at least one giant ponderosa pine on the property that’s more than 100 years old. It was there to greet the homesteaders.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.