On any given day during the spring season, at least one tour group of students is usually exploring the Philip Foster Farm National Historic Site in Eagle Creek.
But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many elements of life have been anything but typical, and this includes operations at the farm at 22725 S.E. Eagle Creek Road.
The site will likely be closed this year because of a statewide ban on gatherings. Along with facilitating social distancing, the potential closure also comes for financial reasons since spring field trips are the farm's primary source of funding.
Philip Foster Farm's educational director Elaine Butler noted that this will be the first summer the farm has not been open.
"We've always had at least a weekend day open, even when it was totally being run by volunteers," she said, adding that the farm may still be able to host certain private events.
The historic site has been open to the public since 1993. In the prior century, Philip Foster, his wife Mary Charlotte and their children welcomed many of their fellow travelers at their farm on the historic Barlow Road in Eagle Creek after they had made their journey across the Oregon Trail. The 640-acre property featured a store and places for weary travelers to stay.
This year, leaders at Philip Foster Farm do not expect to host events in May or June. If conditions improve, they hope to have summer camps in June and July, along with Mary Charlotte's Garden Party in July.
The farm is typically closed for most of the winter, but this year leaders had hoped to extend their season to include these months. However, Butler said that this is now unlikely.
Additionally, because of financial constraints, the farm's paid staff have been temporarily laid off. Along with volunteers and teens who work during summers, the farm typically has four employees.
Though many elements at Philip Foster Farm are in a holding pattern, construction efforts will continue because of grant funding. Projects include adding wallpaper to one final room in the Lucy House, building roofs over the picnic tables and the permanent installation of a working sawmill.
Butler noted that some volunteers, particularly ones who work in the gardens on an individual basis or are involved with research projects that can be done remotely, are continuing their work.
Additionally, the farm's grounds are open to community members as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
"We invite people to come out and stroll the grounds, especially if you need to get outside with kids. Our buildings will be closed, but the grounds are always open and people can come play," Butler said.
Butler noted that although times seem difficult, we still have more advantages than those traveling along the Oregon Trail during the 1800s.
"That perspective is just so important. It feels like we're suffering so terribly because we're inside all the time . . .but running water and electricity are such wonderful things," she said.
To learn more about Philip Foster Farm and support the National Historic Site, visit philipfosterfarm.com.
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