Philip Foster Farm educates kids

Ty Tilden
Staff Writer

While not a mainstream tourist attraction, Philip Foster Farm turns kids into pioneers. Established as what it is today in 1993 by the Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven Historical Society, the farm relies largely on memberships, tours, admissions, donations, purchases from the store, and grants from various groups and organizations.

The farm is the site of Philip Foster’s homestead, which marked the end of the Oregon Trail for many westward travelers in the mid-1800s. Foster had established a store, blacksmith, and a place for weary travelers to rest (which came with a price of course). Foster was already a wealthy banker, which made his business extra profitable.

The farm serves as an important part of local history. It still contains two houses, one built in 1883 and the other in 1860 (the oldest house still standing from the Barlow Road). There is also a plethora of replica buildings including a store, blacksmith shop, and barn.

Fueled by a “small army of volunteers and a dedicated board of directors,” the farm’s mission is turning kids into pioneers. Elaine Butler, Educational Director at the farm, notes the importance of getting kids involved, “It sucks kids into learning more about history.”

The farm provides a variety of outlets for kids to connect with the past. Volunteering, tours with schools and families, and camps provide what Butler describes as a “linking of the past to the present.” She describes how beneficial it is for kids to gain historical perspective. “It’s not names and dates that they remember,” Butler said. “[The experiences] make history more real.”

Currently, the farm is constructing a housing for their sawmill, which will be used not only for demonstrative purposes, but also for constructing a replica of the circa 1850s Estacada School. The school was the first public school this side of the Mississippi.

The farm also has their annual Christmas event upcoming, on Dec. 4, that features various holiday activities including Santa and trees for sale. Though they are uncertain about the complexity of the event this year due to COVID-19.

Internships and volunteer opportunities are also available. They provide work based learning for careers in history. The farm is always looking for more volunteers in various areas. Volunteers may be involved in giving tours, running the store, blacksmithing, and other tasks that contribute to this hub of historical learning.

Even today, Foster’s legacy continues to impact Oregon residents. The volunteer spirit, workmanship, and learning that radiates from the farm is not all too dissimilar from that that was commonplace during Foster’s peak in the 1840s.

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