Do most of us, especially kids, know where our food supply comes from? Likely not. As the rural and urban worlds divide, city people lose their connection to the land. They take for granted the complex needs of a local food supply — fertile land, water, birds, bees and human knowledge of the best farming methods.
Clark County owns a unique asset — the 79-acre Heritage Farm — where these elements unite in a tranquil setting along 78th Street in Hazel Dell. The question county councilors now aim to address is whether Heritage Farm can become fiscally self-sustaining. Recent council deliberations on the subject are raising alarm among farm supporters fearing unintended consequences.
At Heritage Farm, a plethora of organizations perform good deeds. The result is the closest thing in our county to the embodiment of Utopia envisioned by idealists centuries ago. In 1873, Clark County designated Heritage Farm as a poor farm, where the impoverished could improve their lives through farming. The parcel’s dedication to the poor continues to this day.
Today, WSU Extension (under a contract with the county) manages 84 community garden plots and conducts agricultural research. The Clark County Food Bank cultivates 10 acres using volunteer labor from Churches in Partnership. The Master Gardeners Foundation hosts a yearly plant sale to help fund advanced knowledge of how to garden better and more productively. Partners in Careers assists veterans, the Pacific Northwest Queen Bee Rearing Club maintains a small hive, and Clark College uses the farm for some of its classes. Birds thrive in the farm’s wetlands.
Visitors who walk the multi-use trail often praise the farm’s uniquely peaceful aspect. Based on society’s aspirations, Heritage Farm may be the best used land in the county.