Farm Land Trust Purchases 29-Acre James Family Property in Rochester


Olympia-based nonprofit Community Farm Land Trust on Wednesday announced acquisition of 29 acres of the historic James family 1852 pioneer farm, located south of Rochester.

The purchase was conducted on Aug. 3, according to a news release from the land trust. The farmland will continue to be used for food production and farming, the land trust says, and will be leased to Common Ground Community Supportive Action, one of the region’s oldest community supported growers that provides local farm-produced goods. The land will be turned every few years.

“I believe this will be a great asset to the community … I am thankful to be part of the vision of stewardship of the land and the sustainability of vital agriculture and farming for family, neighbors, community and generations to follow,” said sisters Gayle and Cheryl James in a statement.

Alongside sister Lori James, the trio sold the property to Community Farm Land Trust conscientious of the property’s historical significance and say they welcome its transition.

The sisters also have a strong personal connection to their grandparents’ farm, too.

“As children, we had many years of enjoying wonderful times spent with our cousins playing in the barn, sliding down the hill on cardboard, eating giant Wolf River apples from the orchard ‘down over the hill,’ walking to the river and sharing Sunday dinners around our grandparents’ table, sometimes eating wild nettles that were gathered nearby,” Lori James said.

Prior to the James family’s occupation of the land, it was used for time immemorial by the upper Chehalis Tribe.

“From the beginning, relations between the James family and the Chehalis Tribe were friendly with reciprocal trade and other social interactions. In 1854, when a second wave of European diseases struck the Chehalis, the James family helped care for the sick, taking in the worst cases and providing medicine,” the news release stated.

In return, the Chehalis Tribe  granted the James family permission to stay on the prairie as permanent residents.

“We grew up knowing how indebted the James family was to the Chehalis Tribe for their generosity in allowing them to settle on their land, providing them a chance to create a new life,” Lori James said.

Major funding for the acquisition came from the Thurston County Conservation Futures program, the Tides Foundation and the supporters and membership of the Community Farm Land Trust.