The house smelled of pork roast and sweet blackberry dumplings. Dad milked the cows while mother tended to the garden out back. The fire crackled from cedar wood collected with grandpa that morning. Coins from the day’s lemonade-stand sat in a pile on the kitchen table. For Cliff Bailey, these were some of his fondest childhood memories. “Happy times,” he called them.
Today, Cliff has the joy of knowing that future generations will be able to carry forward the rich history of his family farm — forever.
A Centennial Farm, Bailey Farm began in 1913 when Cliff’s grandparents purchased 40-acres in the Snohomish River Valley. Five years later, Cliff’s father, Earle, expanded the modest stretch of feed crop and oxen pasture into a full-fledged dairy operation. Together with his wife and children, Earle expanded the farm to the nearly 400 acres it is today.
103 years and five generations from its inception, the farm not only still stands, it thrives. As a nod to the dairy that operated there for nearly 80 years, Holstein cows graze along the hillside in springtime, while silage corn grows below. In the summer months, community members fill the 40-acre U-Pick garden, leaving with buckets of cucumbers, strawberries, green beans, and peppers. Come October, kids ride wagons through the pumpkin patch and chase each other through corn mazes — operated by Cliff’s granddaughter, Annie. Year round, Bailey sells high-quality, aerated compost.
Cliff and Rosemary, high school sweethearts, had the idea to conserve their land while talking with other landowners at a Holstein Association conference in Maine in the 70s.
“The idea stuck with me,” said Cliff. “I think it’s pretty important to keep as much agriculture as we can in the communities where we live. Conserved land is cheaper for farmers, produces better food, and sustains a more wholesome way of life. It just makes sense.”
For years, Cliff and Rosemary have watched rich soils of the Snohomish Valley disappear. Thriving agricultural lands seem to turn to housing developments overnight, they recall. For them, knowing those developments are irreversible makes it even more heartbreaking. They remember the days when Kent and Auburn valleys were rolling farm fields, not shopping malls. They would hate to see their property, too, slip into a faded memory.
“We want our farm to continue to serve as the place where community members come for wholesome food, to play with their kids, and to understand what agriculture is all about.”
Because of the wonderful collaboration between PCC Farmland Trust and Snohomish County, Bailey Farm will be able to do just that for generations to come. From Cliff and Rosemary’s three children, who have maintained the farm over the years, down to their months-old great-granddaughter, Kate, there is huge opportunity to keep Bailey Farm an epicenter for agriculture and community in Snohomish County.
The Baileys all believe that now is the perfect time to focus on farmland conservation in Snohomish, in order to keep it a thriving agricultural community. We agree. Our goal at PCC Farmland Trust is to build off of this keystone project to launch into further conservation work throughout the region.
When I asked Cliff and Rosemary how it makes them feel to know that Bailey Farm will stay in their family for generations, they looked at each other and smiled. “It’ll be fun to watch,” they said together. “Each of them will carry this on, we know it.”
To learn more about Bailey Farm, visit our farms page.
A special thanks to our funding partners at Snohomish County, and Linda Neunzig for her instrumental work in conserving this farm.
Photos by Molly Goren.