Anderson Farm generational family member Tamara Knapp admires her dahlia fields in late August. Photo by Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record

Anderson Farm generational family member Tamara Knapp admires her dahlia fields in late August. Photo by Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record

New life for old farm: Dahlias in bloom around historic home restored by descendant

Tamara Knapp walks like a woman with purpose, and rightfully so. For three years, she worked nonstop restoring her family’s 1907 Anderson farmhouse in Langley, now framed by 370 brilliantly hued dahlias blossoming in the hot summer sun.

As the granddaughter of Al Anderson, for whom the meandering road out front is named, Knapp knew that it was her own legacy to save the farm.

“I grew up on this farm,” Knapp said. “Everything was fresh, with cows, chickens, gardens. … I really wanted to re-create the childhood that I had.”

When the farmhouse began deteriorating after more than 100 years of well-lived life, she knew that it was would be her mission to keep things going for future generations, as well as for the community.

“It was either going to fall down or I was going to have to step in and save it. So that’s what I did. There was no way I was gonna let my grandparents’ house go,” Knapp said.

For the past two years, the 1907 farmhouse has thrived under Knapp’s care as well as with many helping hands from across South Whidbey. Knapp’s mother, Dorothy Anderson, donated 16 garden plots on the property for a community garden, which now flourishes with flowers, vegetables and fruits commonly tended and shared.

Apple trees toss their bounty back into the community as well, and a gaggle of beer hops make their way into Anderson Farms Beer at Langley’s Double Bluff Brewing Company. Dorothy Anderson even does a “chicken share”with another Whidbey resident to plop fresh eggs onto neighborhood tables.

What appears at first sight to be a rusting metal bench near the roadside happens to be a work of art by renowned Langley artist and sculptor Tim Leonard. It sits nonchalantly in front of the dahlia fields for anyone to stop by and enjoy a picnic, watch the cows, hear the busy buzzing from nearby beehives.

Families from across the region now come and stay in the farmhouse for days at a time, ever since Knapp determined that she wanted to perpetuate the cycle of life and land that her grandparents built so long ago.

“I wanted to share it all with families, to experience life as I did growing up,” Tamara said.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing, with the entire farmhouse available for farm-stay getaways.

“Raspberries, tomatoes, veggies — they can pick their own, and run and romp on the land.”

Last week, a group of artists and photographers moved in with their canvases, cameras and sketchpads, leaving behind their own artistic mementos for the Anderson family.

Every item within the farmhouse and the grounds has a story culled from five generations of family history: a compost pile crowns a pile of dirt covering the old well dug by Knapp’s great-grandfather’s own hands; the dahlia shed built by her brother comes from the old farmhouse wood; her grandpa’s lunch box dangles from a shelf along with egg baskets, milk jugs and wire from the old chicken coop.

“I’ll never let this place go,” Tamara declares. “And next year, we’ll plant even more dahlias.”

Meanwhile, the dahlia shed is open on Al Anderson Road every day until dusk. Anyone can pop in with a handful of dollars and pop out with a colorful bit of farmhouse legacy. A lockbox nailed to the wall lets you come and go as you please.

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