By Rocky & Sue Goodwin
We found the property by accident in 1971. An ad in the paper offered a plane ride to view a 120-acre parcel of land outside Palmer. We’d been in Alaska five weeks to teach at a local elementary school and had just begun exploring the area. We thought a plane ride sounded like fun so called the realtor and made arrangements to meet him.
On a sunny fall day we got an amazing view of Palmer, the Talkeetna Mountains and a beautiful little lake totally surrounded by wooded land. We fell in love with that property and to our surprise our meager savings (we remember eating many meals of rice and beans) proved enough for a down payment. We suddenly found ourselves land owners.
Though the property was a homestead, there were no improvements like a road or cleared areas. It took us five years to save the money to put in a mile and a half driveway. Rocky bought a very old D4 and sent a plane ticket to my younger brother to come and help him.
After a summer of spending equal time on building the road and repairing the cat, we were done. At the end of the summer we moved in a mobile home and began our life on Dandy Lake.
We had a collection of goats and chickens and thought that was a good beginning for farming the land. We knew we wanted to raise sheep and also thought of having a hay operation. So a quonset barn was built and land cleared for raising hay on the 80 acres and we bought some sheep and haying equipment.
In 1982 we built a house. We taught school and farmed until we retired in 1990. Unfortunately, Eat Local, Farmers Markets, and Organic Lamb happened long after we decided to give up farming. And at that time it took our teaching salary to support our farm.
We let the fields on the 80-acres go wild and trees began to grow back. On our 40 acres with the lake we really only developed a 4 acre corner leaving the rest as we found it. While we were farming we had an opportunity to buy adjoining land with a borough agriculture covenant. We bought it to protect the lake.
We always wanted to leave all our land to a conservation group who would protect it when we were gone. We decided to put this 40-acres in a conservation easement with Great Land Trust as a first step. And we hope to add another 80-acres to the easement in the future.
In the last three years changes have occurred. The view along our peaceful country lane has dramatically changed and now includes a gravel pit and a new subdivision. But our lake and the property around it will be protected and provide a quiet refuge amidst all the development in the area between the Fishhooks.
The Goodwins worked with Great Land Trust to place a conservation easement on their land in 2013, leaving a legacy for future generations and conserving the Mat-Su way of life. For more information visit www.greatlandtrust.org