River Heights farm 'more stable' since land trust deal
By Clay Moffitt
December 12, 2006 | RIVER HEIGHTS -- Last May, the
Zollinger Fruit and Tree Farm sought the help of the
Trust for Public Land, and now the Zollingers say they're
stable enough to be a self-sufficient business.
"We just feel fortunate things went as well as they
did," owner Ron Zollinger said. "The community just
really supported us so much."
However in April, the Zollingers were pretty concerned
about the family business' financial future and still
needed to raise another $50,000, according to a report
in the April 10 edition of the Deseret Morning News.
With some negotiations with the Zollinger family and
the federal and state governments, the TPL finalized
the resolution to purchase the farm from the Zollingers
in order to keep the operation afloat.
Although the agreement with the TPL relinquished some
of the Zollingers' developmental rights, for the most
part the Zollingers still own and manage the business,
according to a press release from the TPL on May 16.
"There were some other plans, but this is the only
one we could see that would work," Zollinger said.
For the TPL, the preservation of the farm was a viewed
as a major success.
"This definitely stands out as one of the great saves,"
Shauna Kerr, director of the TPL in Utah, said. "When
you get that much community involvement that's the makings
of a perfect project."
On its Web site TPL.org,
the land trust group describes itself as a national
non-profit organization that "conserves land for people
to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites,
rural lands, and other natural places, ensuring livable
communities for generations to come."
Particularly concerning for Kerr and the TPL was that
the farm is one of the few remaining farms in Utah that
has been family operated for years. "He (Zollinger)
told us the farm had been in the family for generations,
and that always interests us," Kerr said.
The farm is unique in being not just an apple and
fruit orchard, she said, but grows ornamental plants
too, which made it even more appealing to the agency.
So with that incentive, the TPL went through and made
the necessary steps in order to save the farm.
"Everything is complete, it worked out great," Zollinger
And he said he feels the company is headed in the
right direction because of the generosity of the TPL
and members of the community, and the easement took
care of any financial problems that existed.
"We wouldn't have attempted it, if we didn't think
it would give us the stability we needed," Zollinger
Kerr said the hard work and commitment the Zollingers
have to the farm also affirmed to TPL this was worth
investing in. "It's just a special family and operation,"
Kerr said. "They've been excellent stewards of the land,
and it's great to help out people like that."
With Cache Valley's rich farming history, it was a
reassuring to the community to have included in the
agreement that the farm will continue to be used for
agriculture, according to the press release.
"It's a very special, beautiful landscape in an area
that is growing rapidly," Kerr said. "It truly was a
wonderful experience being a part of this project."
Even with the fruit and other agriculture markets
declining in recent year, Zollinger remains realistic
but positive about the farm's future. "Now we'll just
have to see how it goes," he said.