Submitted by Community Farm Land Trust
On August 3, 2021 the Community Farm Land Trust (CFLT) formally purchased from Lori, Gayle and Cheryl James, an approximately 29 acre portion of the pioneer James family’s 1852 Donation Land Claim. Located on James Rd, south of Rochester, the property had previously been owned by John and Blanche James, the grandparents of the recent owners. The James sisters were conscientious stewards of the property’s historical significance and welcome its transition to the Land Trust.
“…I believe this will be a great asset to the community,” says Gayle James. “[I am…] thankful to be part of the vision of stewardship of the land and the sustainability of vital agriculture and farming for family, neighbors, community and generations to follow.”
The sisters have strong personal connections to their grandparents’ farm: “Playing for hours in the big old barn that was filled with huge bales of hay, and a big white owl,” says Gayle James.
“As children, we had many years of enjoying wonderful times spent with our cousins playing in the barn, sliding down the hill on cardboard, eating giant Wolf River apples from the orchard ‘down over the hill’, walking to the river, and sharing Sunday dinners around our grandparent’s table, sometimes eating wild nettles that were gathered nearby,” shares Lori James.
For centuries prior to the arrival of pioneer settlers like the James family, the land was occupied by the Upper Chehalis People. The tribe lived along the shores and tributaries of the Chehalis River, upstream from its joining with the Satsop River, and subsisted on salmon and the resources of the surrounding prairie and forests.
From the beginning, relations between the James family and the Chehalis Tribe were friendly with reciprocal trade and other social interactions. In 1854 when a second wave of European diseases struck the Chehalis, the James family helped care for the sick, taking in the worst cases and providing medicines. In return the Chehalis granted the James family permission to stay on the prairie as permanent residents (David A James, 1980, From Grand Mound to Scatter Creek: Homes of Jamestown. State Capital Historical Association of Washington. Olympia, WA. As cited in WDFW, 2020, Scatter Creek Wildlife Area Management Plan, Appendix D, “Scatter Creek history and cultural resources summary”).
To this day both the James family and the Chehalis Tribe acknowledge their shared history of friendly relationships. Lori James: “We grew up knowing how indebted the James family was to the Chehalis Tribe for their generosity in allowing them to settle on their land, providing them a chance to create a new life”.
With this new acquisition, CFLT will continue its mission to keep farmland perpetually in farming and food production. The property will be leased to Common Ground CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The additional acres will allow Common Ground to rotate land out of intensive production every few years, improving soil quality and function. Established in the early 90’s, Common Ground is one of the region’s oldest CSA growers providing community subscribers with weekly or bi-weekly boxes of farm produced goods.
“We’re excited to have enough ground to allow for a year-long fallow in a 3- or 4-year crop rotation to build organic matter, interrupt pest and disease cycles, and host beneficial insects,” says Julie Puhich, one of Common Ground’s owners.
Major funding sources for this acquisition include the Thurston County Conservation Futures program, the Tides Foundation and the supporters and membership of CFLT.
About the Community Farm Land Trust
The Community Farm Land Trust is a membership-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving farmland and to keeping it farmed forever. Based in Olympia, WA, it concentrates on the areas south of Puget Sound, including Thurston, Lewis, Mason, and Grays Harbor Counties. At present the organization consists of a working board of directors, a 3 person part-time staff, volunteers, and a general membership of about 140. In addition to its new farm acquisition, CFLT has stewardship responsibility for three other farming properties: Scatter Creek Farm and Conservancy, Oyster Bay Farm, and the production ground for GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization working with youth and communities at the intersection of food, education, and health.
CFLT’s mission includes increasing public support for local farming and local food. Each year it produces a 70+ page publication, Fresh From the Farm, a directory of local farm to table resources. The guide features almost 100 area farms selling directly to the public. Twelve thousand copies of the directory are distributed annually to the surrounding four counties free of charge.