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For farm owner, the loss of Missing Mountain Farm will take getting used to | Part 2
On Jan. 19, the Town of Friday Harbor issued a building permit for Sunrise, the San Juan Community Home Trust's newest neighborhood. This is part two of a two-part series on the emerging neighborhood.
"I know every rock and bush here," said Jai Boreen, speaking of the 15 acres he and his family recently sold to the San Juan Community Home Trust.
Boreen and his partner, Bequin, have lived on this land for over a decade and have, with their four sons, built a small paradise dubbed Missing Mountain Farm. This name refers to Bald Hill, which once loomed over the southern portion of the property. Boreen remembers it being "as steep as the gravel it was made of would allow."
Decades of mining transformed Bald Hill into a gravel pit, a landmark that serves to remind islanders of how drastic the face of change can be for San Juan Island. Missing Mountain Farm has been no exception.
When Boreen was approached three years ago by San Juan Community Home Trust board member Larry Soll, he felt that the Home Trust's vision was akin to his own. The Home Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to "create permanently affordable housing for low- and moderate-income island residents, promote economic diversity and development, and support a sustainable island community while practicing responsible stewardship of our rural environment."
Soll proposed selling the land to the Home Trust for the Home Trust’s second neighborhood development, called "Sunrise." Once annexed to town, the land would be the site of 46 homes for families living at or below San Juan County's median income.
For Boreen, this project seemed like an opportunity to develop his land the way he wanted it to be: for his community. "That's where the future is headed," he said. "We all need to be more 'communitarian.' It’s a need I'd like to support."
Missing Mountain Farm had been a consistent incubator for a variety of community activities. The Boreens' expansive garden, orchards, and farm with chickens and goats have been an education venue, where local school children have learned about herb harvesting and wool spinning.
"I love to teach. I want to share my skills," said Bequin Boreen, who taught her granddaughter and other school children on the farm, as well as staging all-age classes on such topics as the production of raw food and how to "start a fire with a bowdrill."
Aside from providing San Juan with unique educational opportunities, Missing Mountain Farm has also hosted community celebrations. It is the birthplace of the Stress Less Fest, a community organized, volunteer-operated gathering of local bands, food and family that "aims to promote creative expression and a local economic system based on equal exchange and shared prosperity." It has been on the land six years running, although the last two years the festival has been transformed into the Islands Village Faire.
The Islands Village Faire has an even stronger focus on encouraging our interisland economy through bartering and buying from local vendors. Ironically, this event will have to find a new venue next year as Missing Mountain Farm morphs into "Sunrise," a community project that is seen by some as the natural evolution of community there.
For Jai Boreen, the loss of Missing Mountain Farm will take getting used to. He feels that he is presently "in way over my head." His original vision of the development was on a smaller scale, focusing more on growing community food and involving a small cluster of earth-built homes, rather than the proposed large-scale building planned for Sunrise.
Sunrise also brings the Boreens the unforeseen financial challenge of cost sharing for the expansive infrastructure that is necessary for the project. These complications may result in them stepping out of the equation all together. Although the Boreens still wish to develop their remaining living area into a settlement of gardens and earth-built homes, they are unsure now if they will have the funds to keep their land, let alone have the money to develop a small village. Now they are considering their options.
Bequin believes it may be time to move on unless they find someone to act as benefactor. "(I hope to) find someone to invest in this place," Bequin said. "A developer that believes in the orchard, the garden. To create a kind of village, a venue for workshops. A non-profit lot. If someone could come in and see the potential for this site."
Jai agrees. "If we could just get somebody to invest in this thing and do our cob vision. If that doesn't happen, we're gonna have to sell."
Despite generating some personal financial difficulties for the Boreens, Jai still sees the Home Trust project as having the potential to give people "the incredible benefit of owning their own home, a solid base to operate from. It really helps people out."
Boreen hopes that if he and Bequin do stay and develop their dream alongside Sunrise, that the two networks will be "good neighbors, with mutual sharing cooperation."