In appreciation of Oregon’s Century Farms

Fiala Farms

Note: I wrote this blog earlier this year, but never posted it. It was one of three blogs I either crafted or updated to complete the topics I felt needed to be represented in my February 2020 released e-book: THEN, NOW, AND IN-BETWEEN: Place, Memories, and Loss in Oregon. Today, while on a ride I stopped by Fiala Farms for a short (physically-distanced) visit with my good friend Richard, and recognized I should post the blog for those who didn’t or haven’t yet picked up the book.

There have been downsides to being married to an elected official. They all pale, though, when compared to one big gift: the people I’ve met. And our good friend Richard Fiala, whose family owns Fiala Farms, is one of those at the top of the list of people we’re grateful to know. Richard and I can lose complete track of time as we share our stories that go back so deeply into early Oregon. While my great-great-greats arrived by ship, Richard’s arrived by trail. And while mine did most everything other than farm, his people are farmers. The Fiala Century farm is a treasure, located in what we now think of as the Stafford Hamlet or Stafford Triangle, in our Clackamas County.

Clackamas County today comprises 1,879 square miles, including more than 15 towns, cities, and designated places from Wilsonville to the Stafford Hamlet to Estacada. The County was named after the Clackamas Indians, and it was one of the four original districts created by the Provisional Legislature on July 5, 1843. Back then, Clackamas County covered four present-day states, even reaching into one Canadian province. By 1844, the Columbia River was made the northern boundary, and finally, the 1853 U.S. Congressional Act that created the Washington Territory enclosed Clackamas County within the present-day boundaries of Oregon. One year later in 1854, we were granted the boundaries that exist today.

In addition to Richard, I’ve met key figures who toil, not just on their own land, but in their efforts to trademark the Stafford Hamlet, with its tagline “we cherish our rural character.” The Stafford Hamlet “was born out of the idea that change is inevitable, including changing the way we develop. The Hamlet values the qualities—the Stafford Character—that make our community a desirable place to live.” In my memoir (My Music Man), I refer to the undeveloped rural land that so many of us recognize to be more valuable preserved than as another super-sized housing development. I also share my earliest “land activist” story as a mere child, upset with local land developers, back in the days of Tom McCall.

In learning more about the history of the Fiala Farm, Richard informs me that this Century Farm of theirs was originally considered to be in Hazelia, an area today some may more commonly connect with nearby farms on Rosemont Road near Lake Oswego’s Luscher Farm. Richard’s grandparents, who independently emigrated with their families from today’s Czech-Republic to the U.S. and reconnected at Portland’s Bohemian Club in ~1896, bought their farm, today’s Fiala Farm, in 1906. Richard’s father was born in the older house on the property in 1909.

The Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program recognizes farmers and ranchers who have worked the same land for at least 100 years, including Century Farms like Fiala. Since the program began in 1958, over 1200 farms and ranches have been registered. For those farms, this program gives their families pride in honoring the generations who have come before, and laid the foundation for those who now and in the future will work the land.

Richard, along with other Century Farm owners, and rural and farmland preservationists, help all of us understand how critical it is to preserve land, including that located within the Stafford Hamlet. Land that will not come again, offering us the opportunity to visit, work, learn, appreciate and sit in farm-friendly spaces.

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