Down on the Farm

Posted March 7, 2018 at 5:53 am by

Left to right, Boy with Calf (1934), Three Children with Sheep (1928), Girl in Basket with Farm Dog (undated) - SJI Historical Society photo

SJI His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety checks in with this mon­th’s His­to­ry Column…

“Spring­time is the land awak­en­ing. The March winds are the morn­ing yawn.”
– Lewis Griz­zard, Amer­i­can essayist

The cold of win­ter is behind us and thoughts turn toward the joys of this first month of spring, with new life in farm pas­tures and val­ley fields. Agri­cul­ture has always been a defin­ing ele­ment of our island lifestyle and, as with all things cul­tur­al, has been chal­lenged by change. But our island’s sense of place is strong. Orga­ni­za­tions like the San Juan Islands Agri­cul­tur­al Guild are active­ly cre­at­ing rur­al his­to­ry for the future with their many projects and events.

When the Ag Guild envi­sioned the old Fri­day Har­bor Brick and Tile build­ing as the Brick­works we know today, their efforts pre­served his­to­ry and con­tributed to the future. What was once a cen­ter for build­ing the struc­ture of our com­mu­ni­ty (lit­er­al­ly in a con­crete sense) is now a cen­ter for build­ing the spir­it of our com­mu­ni­ty. As the home of the Farm­ers’ Mar­ket or when used as a fes­tive gath­er­ing place for com­mu­ni­ty fundrais­ers or wed­dings, Brick­works con­tin­ues long-estab­lished tra­di­tions of the past.

In that spir­it, this month’s his­to­ry col­umn fea­tures three snap­shots from farm­ing days of ear­li­er times. We see a total of sev­en or eight ani­mals (look close­ly for a sec­ond cat, or maybe that’s just a rock) and five young peo­ple. In the pho­to on the left, dat­ed 1934, there is pride in the boy’s face for his calf. The cen­ter pho­to, dat­ed 1928, appears sweet­ly staged with three chil­dren, per­haps sib­lings, bot­tle feed­ing their sheep. The undat­ed pho­to on the right with a girl and pup­py in a wick­er bas­ket rais­es a few ques­tions. Just how many oth­er ani­mals are in that pho­to? What do you think? Please do let us know if you can iden­ti­fy any of these kids or their families.

Island farm his­to­ry is a major focus of The San Juan His­tor­i­cal Muse­um. Our new “muse­um with­in a muse­um” known as the Muse­um of His­to­ry and Indus­try (MHI) will soon expand to inter­pret the impor­tance of farm­ing to island lifestyle. This per­ma­nent exhib­it is a work in progress, along with oth­er exhibits on fish­ing, log­ging, and the lime indus­try. There’s always some­thing hap­pen­ing at the His­tor­i­cal Muse­um. Hap­py spring­time, one and all!

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Categories: History

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