In a bygone era, when a community was just beginning to form, the fabric of society was more intertwined by rivers, forests, and land and natural resources were the bedrock of a community. We are blessed to have the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish watersheds that tie us together.
We live in a farmhouse that was built in 1892 and added onto in 1914. The old barn (which no longer exists) and our home had a unique presentation to the road. But when you think about when it was built and what the primary driver of the economy was, you can understand the logic.
In most of our communities, the loggers came in first and cleared the land, but it was the dairy and crop farmers who followed in their footpaths that formed the base for sustainability. Old-timers talk about the “milk check” and how it anchored the entire farm and local economy. It was because that steady weekly check supported veterinarians, feed and fertilizer dealers, mechanics and multiple jobs, which in turn helped establish communities. The access to water like seaports and rivers also enabled the efficient transfer of goods and when coupled with good farmland, communities prospered.
Our home and barns faced what use to be the Stillaguamish River. It makes sense when you think about the sternwheelers, barges or canoes going by your house, knowing you’d want to have efficient access to the markets. The Stillaguamish River shifted in 1912 and our farm now is located on the “old channel” which is a shadow of its once glory.
A lot has changed since 1892 and now we have planes, trains and automobiles. Our rivers are not as important as they once were, but they continue to carry value in the preservation of farmland, providing habitat and flood water storage.
Last week our dairy farming neighbor cut and harvested our pastures for silage (cow food), one of the most beautiful sites of spring is a freshly mowed field. In some ways that “milk check” is still prevalent and relevant to the success of our farming economy and our local communities.