News & Events

Welcoming the Kawamoto-Wipala Farmers to Our Community

Author: Lilly Schneider | 10/13/22

Foreground: Brent and Ana, two of the four-person farming collective that purchased the farm. Background: Aerial shot of Kawamoto-Wipala Farm by John Gussman.

Over the last year, our community has been captivated by the conservation story of Kawamoto Farm. Kawamoto Farm is an historic 148-acre farm and working forest north of Quilcene that was founded 101 years ago by Kaichi and Itsuno Kawamoto, immigrants from Japan. The family overcame extraordinary obstacles, including the challenges of homesteading, barriers to legal land ownership, and incarceration during WWII, to establish a thriving farm cared for by four generations of the Kawamoto family.

Read more about the history of the Kawamoto Farm here.

Old photo of farm

Historic photo of the Kawamoto Farm.

When it came time to sell the farm in 2020, the Kawamoto family, wishing to preserve the farm’s legacy, reached out to Jefferson Land Trust. In 2021, generous private donations and funding from the Navy’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program made it possible to place two easements on the Kawamoto Farm — one that limits development and one that guides land and forest management, protects water quality and habitat, and makes provision for interpretive signage at the farm to honor its history.

The restriction of development rights also reduced the property value, presenting a rare opportunity for the next landowners to purchase the farmland for a more affordable price. In fall of 2021, Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative, of which the Land Trust is a member, formed a Selection Committee of community members who represent a wide variety of sectors of our local agricultural food system and who come from diverse racial and economic backgrounds. The Committee put out a request for proposals (RFP) to identify, from a wide pool of qualified and deserving applicants, the next owners of the Kawamoto Farm. (See below for more details about the Kawamoto Farm selection process.)

Woman holding goat

Natalia Pinzón

Today, we’re pleased to share that the Kawamoto Farm Selection Committee selected the farming collective of Ana Galvis, Juan Daniel Galvis, Brent Walker, and Natalia Pinzón to be the next farmers and caretakers of this special place. In August 2022, they officially became the proud owners of the newly-named Kawamoto-Wipala Farm!

The members of this collective have long served their communities in California, Mexico and Colombia as teachers, gardeners, farmers, community organizers, and consultants in sustainable agriculture and food justice. With more than 15 years of farming experience between them and strategic plans to bring the farm back into production, they’re united by a powerful vision: to celebrate the beauty and potential around them by maintaining and producing a quality organic sustainable environment where food and people can grow.

Through their hard work and dedication and the support of their families and communities, along with the collaboration of the Kawamoto family, Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative, the Selection Committee, Jefferson Land Trust, the U.S. Navy, and countless other friends and supporters, the agricultural, cultural, and regional legacy of the Kawamoto Farm will live on and continue to nourish Jefferson County as a new chapter of its history unfolds.

Heather Kawamoto, the great-granddaughter of Kaichi and Itsuno, represented her family on the Selection Committee. Of the new farmers, she says, “This team sees what’s possible. They want to create something that honors what has been while creating new things. I feel so good about having them steward the farm into the next generations.”

Ana Galvis says, “Having access to land was the tool that we needed to embody and fulfill our vision. There are lands that you choose, and lands that choose you. For some reason beyond our understanding, this land chose us.”

The New Farmers

Woman with dog

Ana Galvis

Ana was born and raised in Colombia and migrated to the United States when she was 26 years old. She is a biologist with two master’s degrees, one in natural resources management with an emphasis on agroecology and another in Latin American studies with an emphasis on food justice. For more than 15 years she has been an educator at the academic and nonprofit level in agroecology and food justice.

Juan Daniel is Ana’s son, and his support and involvement in the project, she says, is a treasure. “This is a multigenerational effort,” she continues. “Multi-racial, multi-ethnic. Thanks to the belief that the new generations have in this vision, it could come true. All of this has come sincerely from believing that we can embody a more sustainable way to relate to nature.”

Juan says, “I’m here because I believe in my mom, her project, her practices, and her team. I’m very glad that at age 22 I can genuinely do something for future generations. I’ll do everything that I can to help.”

Man on tractor

Brent Walker

Natalia’s grandparents had a coffee farm in Colombia and her great uncle was a livestock veterinarian. Her experience in agriculture ranges from production to research and education. In 2015 she started a micro-dairy of goats and sheep on a peri-urban farm in which Ana and Brent, her longtime friends and colleagues, also participated. Currently she’s completing a PhD at UC Davis on agroecology with a focus on climate and wildfire adaptation of diversified farming systems.

In the last decade, Ana, Natalia, and Brent have all been involved with the practice, study, and teaching of agroecology at the university level, including at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz. Brent first apprenticed in the food and garden program there in 2008, returning as Assistant Farm Manager in 2018, a position he held until this summer.

Agroecology can be described as a science, a social movement, and a series of practices. Brent explains, “My idea of agroecology is formed from the Center, but it’s an ancient idea, the idea of taking care of the earth and the soil to produce whatever you’re going to produce. Not only that, but keeping in mind how what we do in our farming practices affects the whole community and the environment where we’re farming.”

Ana says, “Our collective vision of agroecology includes not only the traditional ways to produce food but also integrating new technologies, in a way that is balanced and that respects natural resources and people.”

Historic photo of Japanese American family with kids

Historic photo of Kawamoto family

This philosophy of relationships and respect for the earth is one Heather Kawamoto believes her ancestors shared. “Even though I never met my great-grandfather Kaichi Kawamoto, I feel that he very much recognized how interconnected we are with the earth, through this basic concept of living and surviving off the earth as a farmer. In this relationship, he wasn’t exploiting the earth’s abundance. That’s also what I feel the Land Trust is doing in their work: protecting the land for future generations to keep honoring it in the way it was meant to be.”

At the time that they first learned about the opportunity to purchase the Kawamoto Farm, Ana was living in an urban farm village in El Sobrante, California, managing the on-site garden and helping to manage the dairy goat herd with Natalia, Brent, and others in the collective. Six years with the herd taught them a lot about how to integrate animals into agricultural production.

According to Natalia, integrating animals can be “really, really, hard to do without damaging the environment. But if you do it right, it can have enormous benefits for the environment, people, and the animals.”

“Having an agroecosystem that includes animals, plants, and trees connects to my and Ana’s heritage,” she explains. “I’ve trained in agroecology in intensive silvopastoral systems, and we have beautiful examples of these in Colombia. I see the animal element of agroecology as being critical on any land that we work together.”

The Journey to Kawamoto-Wipala

With the help of community partners, Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative’s Kawamoto Farm Selection Committee shared the request for proposal (RFP) far and wide in the fall of 2021, offering translation services and pooling resources to make the process as equitable and accessible as possible. When the Land Trust posted the RFP on our Facebook page, the post was shared hundreds of times and viewed by tens of thousands of people — including a friend of Ana’s, who sent it her way.

Farm spread before mountains.

Present-day photo of the farm

In October 2021, the Kawamoto Farm Selection Committee hosted two “open houses” at the Kawamoto Farm for the 65 parties who submitted letters of interest following the RFP advertisement. More than one hundred people came to tour the property over that weekend, with representatives from the Kawamoto family, Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative, and the Selection Committee on hand to answer applicants’ questions, familiarize them with the property, and hear about their hopes for the farm.

After this, applicants were invited to submit full proposals, which were evaluated on criteria including farming experience, business planning, financing feasibility, land use and stewardship, community engagement, and equitable opportunity. After receiving 14 full proposals, and following rigorous discussions, the Selection Committee met with five finalist groups for in-depth conversations, and the final selection was made before the end of 2021.

The Selection Committee included LandWorks Collaborative partners as well as community members from diverse racial and economic backgrounds with expertise in farming and local food systems. The goal was to authentically include the perspective of groups that have been systematically excluded from decision-making in land-use decisions nationwide.

“The process itself was so informative,” Ana says. “Through it, we learned that this is a community we want to be part of.”

For the Kawamoto family, the process of letting go of the farm was understandably bittersweet, but Heather reflects, “In the end, I was so happy to be part of the Selection Committee, because I felt this would be a way to honor my ancestors and give opportunity the way they were given opportunity. What does collective racial liberation look like, feel like, sound like? It became clear that every voice mattered — both the applicants’ and the other Selection Committee members’. So many applicants had creative, thoughtful, innovative approaches and ideas, and the whole committee was committed to creating a process to uplift every application.”

Vintage photograph of 20 or so men weeding a tilled field.

Rare color photograph of men weeding the fields at Tule Lake Segregation Center, where Joe and Jean Kawamoto were incarcerated in 1943 along with 25 residents from Jefferson County and 41 from Clallam County. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

“The work I do professionally is based on my family’s experiences and those of the other 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII,” she says. “Prior to colonization, all the land in the United States was lived on and cared for by Indigenous peoples who viewed the earth as sacred. It was celebrated and respected in ways that offered survival without depleting its resources. The land theft of what we now call the United States was a violent process built on the genocide of native people. For hundreds and thousands of years, Black and brown and Indigenous people have been farming this land, but less than five percent of farms in the United States are [currently] operated by BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color].”

“Collaborating and partnering with the Land Trust allowed us to keep the property in an agricultural state,” Heather says. “To me, this also means it won’t be stolen or taken again, but will be honored and recognized for the sacred place that it is.”

The new farmers, she says, are willing to pose questions about why these stories haven’t been often told, why it’s important to share them, and how we can create something different. “For some, these questions might feel provocative, but to me they are heartfelt. We must be willing to face the history of the land in order to create visions for the future.”

With this relevant history of the property, region, and country in mind, Jefferson Land Trust did something new on this project. For the first time, we included a provision in the conservation easement that allows for the creation of an onsite interpretive display. Accessible to those driving by the farm on Highway 101, the future display will describe and honor the land’s Indigenous and Japanese American history.

Ana says, “When I heard the story of the Kawamotos, I thought, this is the story of a community that makes a conscious effort to not replicate completely the colonial trauma that has been carried on throughout the Americas. This community has been building solutions. This is not only a story of problems and systemic trauma, but also of solutions that come from solidarity, dialogue, support, and collaboration. In the end, the Kawamotos were able to buy their farm, and they recovered it after being released from the internment camp during the second World War. And now the Kawamotos are passing to us, in a very conscientious way, the opportunity to continue building a legacy.”

Black and white photo of farm

Historic photo of the Kawamoto Farm

Brent says, “For the Kawamotos to be able to thrive shows an accepting farming community. We see how much pride the people of Quilcene take in being part of their community.”

He adds, “The farm’s history, the way the farm was cared for, the way the family was able to make a home, I think it’s a beautiful story of how to overcome. I have a lot of respect for the Kawamotos and their idea of how to resist in such a beautiful way. I am truly humbled by this piece of land.”

Moving Forward

Over the last month, the new farmers have been busy beginning life on Kawamoto-Wipala Farm. While leaving their former homes, community, and resources behind felt intimidating at first, there was another small miracle in store for them as they prepared to move.

Two women and a man standing in front of wooden sign reading "LandFest"

Kawamoto family at LandFest 2022, the Land Trust’s summer gala. Photo by Stephanie Stewart Bailey.

Natalia explains, “It was only after we submitted the proposal that we found out the Organic Seed Alliance, which Ana and I have worked with for over eight years, is based in Jefferson County. So before we ever visited we had people cheering for us from the community. We went to visit multiple times and were hosted with so much love and so much support.”

At Ana’s invitation, Heather Kawamoto visited Ana and her students at UC Berkeley virtually to share her family’s story. Ana also invited Sarah Spaeth, the Land Trust’s Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships, to speak to her students about the Kawamoto Farm conservation story.

There’s a lot of work ahead, but these farmers have the technical skills, the inspired vision, and the heart to make it happen. “We want to preserve what’s already been built up on the farm over the years,” says Brent. “We want to make sure there’s interaction between animals, perennials, annuals, trees, vegetables, a mixture of crops to diversify the land, and see how animals interact with the beautiful wide open pastures. We’ll continue to listen to the land.”

But step one, he says, is “acclimating to the community and seeing how we can be the best neighbors.”

“I want to give my appreciation to Jefferson Land Trust and the community for being so accepting of us, and enabling us to come, as agroecologists, people of color, and people of diversity. I can’t thank the whole project enough.”

Open farmland with buildings in far ground.

Another view of Kawamoto Farm, cleared by hand and horse generations ago.

Ana says, “We will continue building on this blessing. I pray that good things are more in quality and quantity than the challenges. We know challenges always happen, so we hope to have the wisdom to navigate them. We want to be able to continue the legacy that the Kawamoto family built on that land, with our own flavor.”

“We’re honored to have played a part in this extraordinary preservation story,” says Richard Tucker, Executive Director of Jefferson Land Trust. “The interest and excitement we’ve seen in this project — from the farmers who responded to the opportunity to purchase the land, to the wider Jefferson County community — shows how much we need more projects like this one. We’ll continue to work with farmers, farming families, and the local agricultural community to seek out opportunities to promote equitable and affordable farmland access, and to protect Jefferson County’s iconic working farm and forest lands, open spaces, and cultural heritage for future generations.”

Protecting farmland has been one of the Land Trust’s top priorities for over a decade; to date, we’ve protected 17 local farms — that’s more than 1,300 acres of farmland! We’re excited to add Kawamoto-Wipala Farm to this list.

Please join us in warmly welcoming Ana, Juan, Brent, Natalia, and their families to our community!