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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Zollingers' 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, 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 said.

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 said.

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.


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