Booklet spotlights Wallowa County’s Century Farms

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer July 14, 2011 06:42 pm

Wade Century Farm house with guests
Wade Century Farm house with guests

Fifteen of Wallowa County’s Century Farms are highlighted in the new booklet “Century Farms and Ranches of Wallowa County,” released this month by the Wallowa Land Trust.

Families who continue the agricultural livelihood of their ancestors shared their stories and photos to capture local settlement history and get it into print.

Julia Lakes of Wallowa Land Trust said this project is important to help maintain the Trust’s mission to “educate about the conservation of private lands and the protection of the unique agricultural heritage of Northeast Oregon.”

Lakes, who has lived in Wallowa County for two years, said compiling these stories also came out of a personal interest to learn the local history.

“I loved meeting people and hearing their stories,” Lakes said.

Lakes interviewed members of each of the 15 participating families, wrote their stories and then asked each family to edit what she wrote to ensure the highest level of accuracy. Throughout her journey into Wallowa County’s past, she learned there was a disparity among the depth and extent of the family histories.

“There was a broad spectrum of family history knowledge,” she said.

The book was a labor of love and over a year in the making, Lakes said, but she credits a community effort for its publication. She also said she owes a huge debt of gratitude to Allen Schnetzky, a fifth-generation member of the Bacon family of Flora, for mentoring her work. The project was funded in part through a grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission that paid for the printing and some of the staff time.

In addition to information on each of the participating families, the booklet contains an historical background of Oregon’s homesteading and settlement, giving it a context of when the century ranches and farms started, Lakes said.

According to the booklet, “a Century farm or ranch is a family run agricultural operation in business continuously for at least 100 years.” The Oregon Century Farm and Century Ranch Program started in 1958 and the program is administered through the Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation and is partially funded through a partnership with the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Historical Society.

The booklet goes on to say that as last year, 1,117 Oregon farms and ranches received Century designation and 22 families have received the Sesquicentennial Award. Oregon has one of the oldest agricultural heritage programs of this type in the nation.

Lakes said one of the missions of the Trust is to help protect private land and keep working lands working. She said they realize what a challenge this is.

“Local farmers and ranchers struggle to be economically viable in a challenging industry in a challenging time,” Lakes said.

However, many of the local century farmers and ranchers agree with the Trust’s desire to keep local land out of development. Liza Jane Nichols of the McAlister Ranch said, “There is value in the guarantee of open space.”

For more information on the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program visit www.oregon.gov/ODA/cfr.html or contact the current OCFR coordinator by phone at 503-400-7884 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it