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Harvest Fair a double celebration this weekend

Youths frolick on the landslide at last year’s Harvest Fair (see box). - Courtesy of Trust for Working Landscapes
Youths frolick on the landslide at last year’s Harvest Fair (see box).
— image credit: Courtesy of Trust for Working Landscapes

Agriculture and a new affordable housing opportunity will be feted at the Johnson Farm.

When Harvest Fair kicks off Sunday on the Johnson Farm, it will be a double celebration.

As the community fetes farming, the seeds to put city-owned farmland to use have been sown.

Two years in the making, a formal agreement between the city and the Trust for Working Landscapes will allow TWL to purchase housing lots on the farm on about one-third of the 14.5-acres, to begin building affordable homes and raising a 4-H barn there.

“This is the first time the city has done this and the first time for TWL, too,” said Rik Langendoen, president of the trust board. “I think that this could be a model for other communities to move through these (deals).”

The renewable five-year agreement allocates equal thirds of the Johnson Farm to affordable housing, active agriculture and open space.

The compromise is significant because it allows TWL to buy just the affordable housing lots – up to six homes are allowed in the agreement – from the city, and retain right of first refusal should the city decide to sell the remaining two-thirds. In this way, TWL avoids having to purchase the entire lot.

“If we had to buy the property, we couldn’t afford it,” Langendoen said.

TWL was established in 2000 when the city purchased the Johnson Farm. Its purpose was to be a community land trust to preserve farming and affordable housing on the island by managing land held in trust to take the high land cost out of housing and farming.

The agreement for TWL to manage the Johnson Farm was stuck for months. The city didn’t want to “give away” the entire farm to the nascent organization, and TWL didn’t want to buy the entire property from the city because the cost – estimated at $750,000 – was too high.

Langendoen credits an ad hoc committee of council members Bob Scales, Nezam Tooloee and Christine Rolfes for finding a compromise, formally codified and signed in mid-September.

“It was a breakthrough moment that came over burgers at the diner,” Tooloee said. “Here’s an agreement that’s a perfect case of collaboration between the city and a community organization, where the city does what it’s good at – buying the land, staff and expertise, some cash – and (TWL) can come up with a management plan for the day-to-day work with volunteers.”

The open space portion will be protected by a conservation easement, and a covenant of sorts may be used to preserve the farm land for agricultural uses.

TWL can now begin talks with Habitat for Humanity about building housing, and the 4-H club about a barn raising next summer to reassemble the barn salvaged from the former winery property in Winslow.

TWL now will be able to use its dollars to purchase other lands and put the trust in a better fund-raising position: able to discuss the fruits of their work at the fair, and show how fewer dollars accomplished the original purpose of keeping the Johnson Farm land in trust.

“It’s a win-win on all levels,” Langendoen said. “We were able to work this out in a way better than I could have imagined.”

* * * * *

Bring pies and apples

The hay will be flying tomorrow, whether it’s from the horse-drawn wagon rides or kids flying down the landslide.

It’s Harvest Fair time.

“It’s a great venue with a wonderful feeling,” said John Tullis, who will be answering beekeeping and pollenation questions by his 10 beehives. “Everyone’s happy to be there and you learn a lot and meet great people.”

Celebrating the island’s farming tradition, the annual Harvest Fair, sponsored by the Trust for Working Landscapes, will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday at the Johnson Farm, 1/4-mile south of High School Road on Fletcher Bay Road. Suggested donation is $5.

Take a time-travelling trip back to the days of “Little House On the Prairie.” Kids can pet 4-H farm animals, watch a sheep shearing demonstration and then see wool spun into yarn. See quilts, buy locally grown produce from farmers and try your hand at old-fashioned games.

And as every year, you can put your name into the hat for the Trust for Working Landscape’s turkey raffle. People with windfall apples are encouraged to bring them for the cider press which will be cranking out juice for all.

For cooks, there’s a pie contest. Bakers should bring their pies to the contest booth by 12:45 p.m. for judging from 1-1:30 p.m. by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and cookbook author Richard Lasser. The winner gets a farm basket of local goodies.

For more active competition, try this year’s new “goat” milking contest. No goats will be harmed in this contest to see who can milk stick goats – courtesy of local woodworker David Kotz – with rubber glove-udders the fastest and with greatest yield.

The 4-H club will be sponsoring a silent auction at Sunday’s Harvest Fair to help raise money to reassemble and raise a barn that was the Bainbridge Island Winery’s former barn on SR 305. With the barn, the group will be able to have meetings with their animals – not allowed on school grounds – to do demonstrations or establish outdoor rings for dogs or sheep activities.

– Tina Lieu

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