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Project captures farmers’ histories, and more voices wanted

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The Snohomish County Farm Bureau has begun recording the histories of area farm families who have been living and working here for generations. The collection of interviews, stories, family photos and more is a way to honor the families.
According to the farm bureau’s president Dan Bartelheimer, about nine months ago the organization put together a list of things it stands for. One of the things noted on that list was that they needed to tell its story. 
“We’ve been thinking we needed to put something together to tell our stories as farmers in Snohomish… everything’s in a constant state of change and we need to start documenting that better,” Bartelheimer said.
 Brett Melnrick, a communications student at Washington State University Everett who works at Stocker Farms, was asked to spend some of his evenings and weekends sitting down with the families interviewing them about their lives on the farms, how they have seen change in their lifetime and more. Melnrick has been working on these interviews for approximately four months, and has conducted interviews so far with Bill Tester, Bob and Phyllis Ulrich, Mark Winterhalter and Wiard and Jean Groeneveld.
There’s room for more: he is hoping to conduct at least 10 interviews with different families.
Families told Melnrick about what it means to work on a farm and learn the value of hard work. Melnrick said that families also have referred to the flood of 1975 when talking about stories from the past. The flood of December 1975 affected 10 rivers in Washington State and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage in Snohomish County alone, reported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
Many of the farmers lost most or all of their livestock in the flood. Since then, new government regulations have allowed for a raised place for animals to stay out of floodwater.
The farm families also have spoken to Melnrick about life before and after government farming regulations, and what it is like having a farm in an area where land is increasingly sought after for development. Winterhalter’s father, for example, bought
his family’s farm in Silvana in the 1950s, Winterhalter said that back in the day small farms were common, but have since declined. Now, there are not many small farms around. Winterhalter farms beef, pork and hay on his farm while also working outside of the farm to help pay the bills.
“It’s a way of life,” he said, “we enjoy the farm.”
Bill Tester used to own a dairy farm on Old Snohomish-Monroe Road. Tester was born in Monroe in 1930 on Tester Road, which is named after his grandfather. 
He has similar views about the decline of farms: “Everything has changed. There’s very few dairy farmers left around, unless you’re milking a few thousand you can’t make it … now I think there’s only three or four farms around here,” Tester said. He sold his farm to a church in the 1980s. 
He has also watched Snohomish change drastically over the years from a small farm town into a busy city. “It’s been talked about and how times have changed around Snohomish. Between the traffic and homes that they’re building. Everything that is buildable they’re building…They haven’t changed any roads but they keep adding homes,” he said.
More farming families from Snohomish County are wanted for this project. If your family is interested in being involved, contact the
Snohomish County Farm Bureau by emailing info@snocofarmbureau.com, or Dan Bartelheimer at snovalleyfarms@gmail.com or call him at 425-508-7989.

 

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