During the ongoing discussions and meetings about “The 81” development (plat review coming up June 20 – see meeting notes here), there have been some questions about whether the land was ever farmed. The answer is yes, it was farmed for many decades. In fact, there’s a “Centennial Farm” sign in the driveway of the farmhouse still owned by the Boursaw family on the corner of Bluff Road and Boursaw Road.
According to my husband, Tim Boursaw, and his uncle, Bryce Boursaw, Abraham Lincoln signed the property deed to the Boursaw family. In the beginning, the farm was used as a maple syrup operation, and then transformed into cattle, food crops and a small dairy operation, similar to many of the farms on the Old Mission Peninsula at that time. In the 1930s, it was transformed into a cherry farm.
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From the 1930s to the 1970s, about 80 percent of the property was cherry orchards. Like all cherry farms on the Old Mission Peninsula from the 1930s to the 1950s, the land was exposed to pesticide and fertilizer practices of the time. This included applications of copper, lead, nicotine, arsenic and other toxic pesticide and fertilizer substances which were legal at the time, but phased out through the late 1950s and early 1960s and replaced with more effective, but no less toxic substances.
That being said, the history of cherry farming on the Old Mission Peninsula was a great boon to area farmers, but did have negative consequences on the land. After the Boursaw farm was sold around 1970, Phil Weatherholt took over the care and harvest of the orchards until they had run their course and the trees were pushed out. The property has sat dormant since then.
Needless to say, the land probably contains chemical remnants from the many years it was farmed. How much is anyone’s guess.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb