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The land on which the Borner Farm Project is located was homesteaded in the mid 1800’s by the Hollister family. It was one of the earliest settlements in Pierce County, in what was then known as the Prescott Prairie. The land was used as rangeland for livestock as well as cropland for grain crops.
In 1907, John Frederick Borner, his wife Sophia, and his brother Theodore purchased a 200-acre parcel from the Hollister family. The property extended from what is now Highway 10 south to Walnut Street. A cow was also purchased, with the agreement that two quarts of milk be delivered to the Hollister home on Orange Street each school day.
Over the years, parcels of this original 200 acres were sold and developed, leaving roughly 20 acres of residentially zoned open space in the middle of town. Virginia Klecker, a descendant of the Borner family, was born and raised on the farm. She moved back into the farmhouse to care for her mother.
In 2008, Virginia graciously agreed to let Diane rent the land behind the farmhouse for $1 a season. They broke ground with the help of a refurbished Allis Chalmers® farm tractor in the spring of 2009. The soil was rich, beautiful, and completely organic. Between that spring and May of 2013, Diane and a dedicated group of interns, volunteers and other community members organized community gardens, farm markets, a CSA, classes, workshops, and events on the farm.
Virginia sold the farm to Diane and Baard Webster in May of 2013. On this small piece of the original homestead, we are thrilled to be able to continue this land’s legacy of farming and feeding our local community!
Diane Webster: “My husband Baard and I have been residents of Prescott for 31 years. We have spent many of those years raising two daughters and owning and operating a successful garden center out of our home within the city. During this time I have become increasingly concerned with the gradual erosion of community connections, healthy life styles, and individual awareness of our place in the greater world. I am particularly saddened by the ongoing abandonment of many of the life-sustaining skills and knowledge that have been passed down from generation to generation.
“In the spring of 2007, I decided to grow vegetables. Our three-acre property was covered with perennial display gardens and the only sunny location left was in front of our house, close to the road. I proceeded to prepare the soil and build an elaborate, if odd-looking, system of trellises, which immediately drew the attention of neighbors and passersby. I found myself in conversation with people I hadn’t connected with for a long time, some whom I had never met. One neighbor who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years came out of her house, sat down and weeded with me for 45 minutes recalling stories of past gardens and her family’s farming history. Community was happening in my front yard.
“This was a watershed moment for me. I began to dream of the possibilities the garden could offer to the future of our community. The elderly have stories; they have experience and the wisdom of the past. The young have the innovation and energy that will determine our future. How could I create a place where the two could come together?
“Shortly after that, on a typical afternoon walk with my dog, I made my usual pass by an old farmstead in the middle of town. As did most folks in this community, I knew this piece of property existed, was puzzled by the fact that it remained untouched, and assumed it would eventually be developed. My children have played in its fields, the high school cross-country team circles its perimeter, I’ve smiled and waved to Madeline Borner as she gathered gladiolas in the front yard of the old farmhouse where her husband was born and raised. On this particular morning I looked at the farm in a different way. I realized what a unique situation this is, a farm and 22 acres of open land right in the middle of town. What an opportunity.
“I immediately began asking questions. Whose land was this, what are their plans, and would they be willing to consider new possibilities? Fortunately my long time neighbor and dedicated garden employee, Sally, knew the owner, Virginia Klecker. Her family, the Borners, had owned and occupied the farmhouse for more than 100 years. Virginia had moved in to care for her mother and stayed. Sally and I made a thermos of coffee and headed up the hill for the first of many conversations with Virginia.
“What came of those meetings has led to the startup of a community organization based on agriculture that brings together members of the Prescott community to grow food, share stories, promote cross generational learning, raise awareness of our place in the past, and our responsibility to the future.”