Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Proposals needed for historical properties

Map of Wakamatsu Farm Lease Areas

THIS AERIAL image shows the location of the property. Courtesy image

The American River Conservancy (ARC), a non-profit conservation organization, seeks one or more partners to develop portions of a historical farm into a destination, agricultural tourism enterprise.

Selected partner(s) would lease farm acreage and/or buildings, make capital improvements, and operate business enterprises consistent with protecting the site’s cultural, natural and agricultural resources.

The selected partner(s) would work with the ARC to market activities, host a variety of events and grow agricultural products for sale.

The farmhouse, garden and barn may be suitable for an event center or restaurant. Suitable agricultural production may include vineyards, orchards or livestock production.

Ultimately, the goal of all agricultural production on the farm is to become organically certified. El Dorado County maintains a robust “Farm Trails” Program. More information can be obtained at or

The farm is 272 acres in size and located in the Gold Hill area approximately 1,200 feet above the Sacramento Valley.

The area is a gently rolling plain of grassland and oak with two seasonal streams. The soils are deep and fertile and are rated “unique” and of “statewide importance” by the USDA. Piped irrigation water is available from the El Dorado Irrigation District.

The farm is located on Cold Springs Road, a major arterial roadway between Placerville and Coloma.

The ARC requests proposals for the lease of one or more of the following:

Ag area No. 1 (65.8 acres). Predominantly oak and grassland suitable for light grazing or other activity consistent with preserving native vegetation, springs and stream corridors;

Area No. 2 (48.96 acres) and Area No. 3 (44.3 acres) flat, rolling grassland suitable for irrigated crop land;

One partially restored farmhouse (est. 1856) with garden suitable for events;

One partially restored barn (est. 1856);

One small dairy building (est. 1940);

One residential structure (three bedrooms and three baths built in 1960s).


Historical background

The ARC purchased the 272 acre farm in October 2010 to protect its significant natural and cultural resources.

Native Americans have lived in the region for more than 6,000 years. At the time of the Gold Rush, the Gold Hill area was inhabited by the “Nisenan” or Southern Maidu.

The farm is only 2 miles from Coloma, the site of a major Nisenan village at Coloma, and the site where James Marshall built a lumber mill on the South Fork of the American River and where his discovery of gold in 1848 precipitated the California Gold Rush.

In 1852, a group of four German families traveled together to California from Missouri. Among them were: Charles Graner, Francis Veerkamp, his wife Louisa and Louisa’s sister Anna Tobener. Anna and Charles married that year and the two families purchased separate ranches in the Gold Hill area.

The Veerkamps settled at the foot of Thompson Hill. The Graners purchased 160 acres just north of Gold Hill (site of this subject farm).

The Graners planted grapevines and also raised cattle, pigs and sheep as well as fruits and vegetables. When the grapes were ready, Graner bottled wine and ran a distillery for the production of brandy. Sometime around 1856, the Graners expanded the main house, adding a second story and expanded cellar.

In 1868, the gold frenzy was beginning to fade. Graner and his family decided to sell the land and move to San Francisco.

In June of 1869, Graner sold the farm to 22 Samurai colonists from Aizu Wakamatsu in northern Japan following their defeat in Japan’s civil war (Meiji Restoration). These colonists established the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm, growing citrus, tea, mulberry shrubs for silkworms, sesame, bamboo and other traditional Japanese crops.

The Wakamatsu Farm is the first Japanese colony site in North America. The site is believed to be the only colony outside of Japan to be founded by Samurai.

The Wakamatsu Farm also contains the grave of Okei-san, the first Japanese woman to be buried on American soil. It was for these reasons that a 68 acre portion of the farm was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1871 the Wakamatsu Colony was disbanded. In 1873 the Francis Veerkamp family purchased the farm. Over the past 140 years, the farm was managed by the Veerkamp family which successfully grew and sold a variety of grain and fruit crops as well as chickens, turkeys, hogs and beef and dairy products.

Currently, the ARC conducts tours of this historic ranch, coordinates volunteer restoration of wetlands and oak woodlands on a portion of the farm and hosts an annual Wakamatsu Festival in May.

In August, 2012 the ARC leased 10 acres of soil to an organic farmer for the production and sale of produce through CSA marketing.

The ARC seeks to lease additional farmland and structures that will complement activities and food production already in place. The ARC has broad local support and would assist its partner(s) to market agricultural produce and business services among its 2,500 members and supporters and within El Dorado County at-large.

The ARC may ask the organic farmer to consider participating in farm-to-school programs, public tours and the selling of organic produce that would serve special events elsewhere on the Wakamatsu Colony Farm.

The ARC will provide the selected partner with a certificate of liability insurance naming the partner as co-insured with respect to all conservancy tours and educational programs.

Questions or requests to tour the Wakamatsu Farm property may be directed to Alan Ehrgott or Elena DeLacy at 530-295-2190. Additional information regarding the history of the farm may be obtained through

The goal of the ARC is to review and select a winning lease proposal(s) through a level, transparent and competitive process. The winning proposal(s) will be screened, reviewed and selected by the board of directors of the ARC or a subcommittee set up for that purpose. All parties are encouraged to submit proposals including current supporters of the ARC. Any potential conflict of interest should be identified within each proposal. The winning lease proposal will have the highest cumulative score among the following attributes: amount of lease income generated to ARC; creative fit of the proposed agricultural and business enterprise to ARC’s conservation and educational mission, level of experience and capacity of the potential partner.

Bids must be received by midnight, April 15.

The American River Conservancy requests that proposals be submitted to ARC by mail or e-mail to: Alan Ehrgott, American River Conservancy, PO Box 562, Coloma or



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