SNOHOMISH — At 9 months old, Kamden Stocker can’t quite drive a tractor, but he wants to.
With his mom’s help, he can balance on the seat of an antique tractor parked outside at Hidden Meadows Farm off Springhetti Road. His little hands go straight to the steering wheel.
The grinning baby boy is the sixth generation of Stockers to live in a farmhouse built a century ago, on a farm that has changed with the times but continues to thrive.
Each year, the Evergreen State Fair honors a centennial farm family. The farm must have been run by the same family for at least 100 years.
This year, the Stockers of Hidden Meadows were chosen. There often are three or four generations working on the farm at once. Some focus on the 80-plus weddings hosted each year in revamped dairy barns, while others run a turf farm kept especially busy by the recent building boom.
George and Regina Stocker moved their farm to the Snohomish River Valley in 1912. They raised 11 children on 90 acres. The family cleared the land and sold timber, then brought in cattle. They milked 28 cows. That increased to 120 during the farm’s peak dairy years.
Tim Stocker, great-grandson of the George Stocker who founded the farm, married high school sweetheart Tracy and moved into the family farmhouse in 1977. His father, also named George, and grandfather, Grover, had run the farm before him.
George Stocker’s 95th birthday is coming up in September. The Centennial Farm recognition has been a thrill for him, his son said.
“It pretty much made his year, I think,” Tim Stocker said.
Tim and Tracy Stocker met showing cows as part of FFA. Tracy grew up on a dairy farm across the valley. The Snohomish High School grads have five children and 10 grandchildren, from 9 months to 17 years old.
For about 10 years, the couple ran the farm as a dairy. They shifted to turf farming in the late 1980s and expanded into events in 2007. The Stockers converted the dairy buildings into a wedding venue. The loafing shed became a reception hall, the feeding shed is for ceremonies, the milking parlor is the bride’s room and the calf barn was transformed into a kitchen.
The venue overlooks green fields where steady streams of water from sprinklers criss-crossed in the air Monday morning. Of the 240 acres at Hidden Meadows, about 200 are for turf. The turf farm is run by Tim and Tracy’s daughter, April, and son-in-law Jay VanAssche.
Their youngest son, Mick Stocker, heads up the wedding venue with his wife, Bridgitte. Like Mick’s parents, the younger couple started dating at Snohomish High School.
Mick’s brother Tyler, of Wooden Spoon Catering, often caters events at Hidden Meadows. The other two Stocker boys, TJ and Stubby, run the Snohomish Valley Golf Center on Marsh Road. Tim and Tracy Stocker are grateful to have their children and grandchildren nearby.
There are a lot of wedding venues on local farms now, Tim Stocker said.
Rather than competing, the cluster acts as a draw for brides and grooms seeking the perfect spot. If the Stockers are booked, they have places to refer people. Farmers work together to promote the valley.
“It takes those changes to keep the farms going,” Tim Stocker said. “We all milked cows together, and now we all have weddings together.”
Farming here brings its challenges, too, especially during flood season.
In 1975, when Tim was in high school, a flood wiped out almost all of the cows in the valley. In 1990, not long after transitioning to turf, another flood took out their entire crop. In 2007, floodwaters got into some of the wedding buildings. It was the Stockers’ first year hosting events.
“We made it work, though,” Tracy Stocker said. “We just tore out that carpet. In a week, we had a wedding.”
It’s a relief to have the next generation taking over the farm and the generation after already showing interest, Tracy Stocker said. Still, she and Tim remain involved. They moved into a newer house built behind the original so Mick and Bridgitte could settle into the family farmhouse a few years ago.
Now, little Kamden Stocker is learning to walk and talk on the farm where his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather grew up before him.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.