I spent my birthday on the farm. Today was the Great Peninsula Conservancy’s “Petersen Farm Day” event. If you’ve ever walked the Clear Creek Trail to its north end in the marshy grasslands you’ve seen it. Turning off Hwy. 303 to SR 3, if you look to the right, that large open grassland with the fantastic old barn is the place.
Today’s event combined community activism with a family get-together. Gerry Petersen’s niece Dorothy Lind led walking tours of the farm, trading family stories with her cousins. The farm’s current overseer Scott Hall told us the history of that marvelous 1904 barn. A very entertaining historian acted the part of Holm’s neighbor Levin, whose home is now part of the Petersen farm.
So many of the people who showed up today are friends and neighbors of the farm and its people. Nikki Johanson of Pheasant Fields Farm is growing row crops on the property – her place is part of the original Holms homestead too and immediately adjacent to the farm. The Great Peninsula Conservancy was joined by the Kitsap Historical Society, the Clear Creek Trail task force, and the Noxious Weed Control Board, all on hand to pass out information. There were produce stands, a yarn vendor, food and music. Oh, and Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido was on hand as well – she’s the one spearheading the Kitsap Food Chain project.
Here’s the deal: Gerry Petersen didn’t have any kids. Scott Hall worked with him the last decade of his life helping him to farm the place and wants to buy it. Gerry wanted it kept together as a farm. The estate has received offers from developers who covet all that open space. In response community groups are rallying to preserve it as a farm. Partly it’s important to protect Clear Creek and the watershed. At least as importantly, the farm is the hub of a whole wheel of farms in South Kitsap, the center of a renaissance of farming, which in turn is the center of local food. So the Great Peninsula Conservancy is working to buy a conservation easement which would keep the land as farmland.
The farm is not just a living link to the past, although it is that – everyone had Gerry Petersen stories. It’s also a living link to our future. In Kitsap County there is so much yearning for local food and sustainable systems. Preserving the Petersen Farm is a huge step in the right direction. It was so encouraging to see the community come together today. I see my own family’s future as vitally tied to this effort.