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Fujioka Farm

Formerly owned and operated by the Fujioka family for most of the 20th century, Forest Garden Farm today is a working farm that is still rich with cultural and agricultural history. Visitors are welcome with advance notice, and there is a small roadside stand at the property.

Like most farms on Vashon Island, Forest Garden Farm’s history stretches back to the late 1900s. The first United States government records show ownership by homesteaders S.E. and T. Smith, then the Port Blakely Mill Company in 1891. In 1907 John Hanson became the next owner and built a cedar cabin on the property between 1910-1915. The cabin still stands to this day, although it needs repair.

From approximately 1910 to the early 1940s, Issei (first-generation) immigrants Sadagi and Tsune Fujioka lived and worked on the farm. The Fujiokas cleared the land, raised six children on the farm, and grew berries. They may have lived in the cedar cabin until 1927, when records show that the current little 2-bedroom white house was constructed (or may have been moved from a neighboring property). Because of anti-Japanese legislation that prevented them from purchasing land, the Fujiokas would not have been able to own the property but the 1940 census shows that the Fujiokas rented it then in the name of their eldest American-born son Tashio.

The Fujiokas were forcibly removed to Pinedale Assembly Center and then Tule Lake in California in 1942; eventually, they went to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. After the war, the Fujioka parents, along with Tashio and the youngest child, Suzie lived briefly in Spokane. Nevertheless, Tashio returned to Vashon and purchased the property for $13,000 in 1951. Eventually he would eventually do the majority of land clearing in the 1960s and 1970s, and his strawberry harvests would become legendary.

In the 1950s, neighbor Reed Fitzpatrick dug a small pond on the property for irrigation—around the same time as the Matsuda pond. Tashio used to stock it with trout until competition from local herons led him to stop these efforts.

In the 1970s, Tashio decided to work for the post office and shift efforts on the farm to maintenance and forestry. In the 1990s, his health declined and he moved to Bainbridge Island in 2006. The farm then passed through a series of renters who were much less conscientious about land maintenance. Tashio passed away at the age of 97 in 2017.

In 2014, the Fujioka sisters sold the farm to Lisa Hasselman and Chris Hedgpeth, who named it Forest Garden Farm. Today, visitors can see physical traces of the Fujioka family stewardship. One of the apple trees that the Fujiokas planted still bears fruit. A stand of fuki still grows on the property. Hasselman and Hedgpeth are now working to restore the property to become a certified organic fruit, vegetable, and herb farm. A roadside farmstand and seasonal farmer’s market booth allow visitors to sample the farm’s current offerings.

Author: Tamiko Nimura, with thanks to Forest Garden Farm owners Lisa Hasselman and Chris Hedgpeth for many of the details in this history.

Images

Recent crop of apples that the Fujiokas planted.

Fujioka farm sign.

Handmade wooden geta (sandals), made by Tash Fujioka for his mother.

Handmade usu for making mochi (pounded rice cake).

Handmade usu for making mochi (pounded rice cake).

Pioneer cabin.

Pioneer cabin.

Aerial photo of the Fujioka Farm in 1936.

Stories

The “Tree Stand”

According to family and neighborhood history, the house was occupied during World War II by a midwife, a Mrs. Dyrness, who used the house’s current dining room as her office and one of the small rooms as a space for delivery. In later years the farm welcomed many visitors who wanted to see their birthplace; neighborhood history reports that Tashio Fujioka wanted to keep the farm well-maintained for the sake of these visitors.

Tashio planted trees on the north side of the farm in an “arboretum stand” in order to beautify the site, to give back to the earth, and welcome visitors who wanted to see their birthplace. Fujioka’s younger sisters Mary and Suzie say that he imported many of these trees from California, including the Coastal Redwood and the Japanese Red Pine.

The “5 Ton Club”

In 1956 and 1958 the house proudly wore a sign stating that the Fujioka farm was the “Best Strawberry Grower” on Vashon. During these times Tashio Fujioka was able to harvest 5 tons of strawberries from one acre of land, thus earning a rare membership in the “5 Ton Strawberry Club” (created in the 1950s by the Oregon Washington Strawberry Council to encourage farmers to grow the Marshall strawberry).

(See full size newspaper image to read highlighted section.)

Fui

In the spring a small grove of waist-high green fuki plants (also known as Japanese butterbur, or sweet coltsfoot) stands near the pond. Two of the surviving Fujioka sisters, Mary and Suzie, visited the farm and showed the Lisa Hasselman and Chris Hedgpeth how to harvest and prepare the fuki. Using the Fujioka sisters’ recipe, the owners have now begun to harvest and sell the fuki at their farmers’ market booth.