Pioneering Pasco farming family says it’s time to sell
Lurene Harris Fleshman sat at a table in her garage recently at Harris Farm, looking out at the land as she pondered what it would look like filled with houses and streets.
“I’m not ever gonna look again!” she said with a chuckle, before admitting that yes, she’d want to see what it’d look like not being a farm.
Fleshman, a trustee of the Harris Family Trust along with her seven siblings, or their estates, have agreed to put the family’s 45-acre farm on the auction block Nov. 14.
Located at 11530 W. Court St. in Pasco, next to the Columbia River and the bridge that spans Pasco and Richland, Harris Farm is a piece of land that residential developers are chomping at the bit to get their hands on.
‘Prized piece’ of land
“This, indisputably, is the most prized piece of residential development ground I’ve had the privilege of offering in my 37-year career,” said Scott Musser of Musser Bros. of Pasco, which is handling the auction.
When asked what was so special about it, Musser had a lot to say.
“We sell a lot of development property,” he said. “We sold some a few years ago that was over 200 acres. But a lot more people can afford to buy 40 acres than 200 acres.
“So the size (of this property) is key. It’s going to attract a lot of builders. The location is right for development. It’s next to the river. It’s just teed up, ready to go. It’s there. It’s ready. The sewer and water are already in.”
The 45 acres will be sold in four parcels and includes 450 feet of shoreline.
Parcel 1 is just under an acre with a single-family home and about 195 feet of riverfront; Parcel 2 is less than half an acre with a single-family home and about 195 feet of riverfront; Parcel 3 is nearly 16 acres with 150 feet of riverfront and a single-family home; and Parcel 4 is nearly 23 acres.
With Franklin County the fastest-growing county in the state (2.3 percent growth from 2018-19 to 94,680 residents), and Pasco one of the fastest growing cities in the state (also 2.3 percent growth from 2018-19 to 75,290), developers have long been eyeing the property as a spot for more growth.
Between 500 and 700 homes could be built on the land, which is in the county but surrounded by the city.
The city is expected to annex the land as it’s part of the Broadmoor Master Plan area. so it can be developed into a mix of medium-density residential home sites, coupled with some community commercial development.
Sample uses include single-family attached residential, townhouses, condominiums and multi-family structures at a density of eight to 15 units per acre, according to Musser Bros.
And the timing to sell is just right, Fleshman said.
“Our oldest sister died, and so did her oldest son,” she said. “It’s just time.”
That pushed Fleshman and her six remaining siblings to simplify the estate of the farm and split the assets among the siblings and their children.
Harris Farm is a small farm. “We all know farming is not the best use of this land for Pasco,” Fleshman said. “The plan is to close the transaction on Dec. 31.”
At one time, farming was the best use of the land.
Harris Farm has been at its current location for 76 years – since 1943.
Fleshman’s grandparents, Lura and Fred Harris, started the farm, which began as a dairy.
Originally it was located in east Pasco, where Big Pasco Industrial Park is now, and called Diversity Farm Dairy.
The U.S. government needed the land for a supply depot during World War II and made the Harris family move. They chose the west end of Pasco next to the river.
Their son, Wallace, and his wife Lucille took over the farm in 1989.
Wallace and Lucille established a family trust around that time to benefit their children.
Since their death, Lurene and her husband Robert have run the farm and the Harris Produce stand.
A total of five generations have lived on the family farm.
It’s the only place that Lurene has ever lived. She raised six kids on the farm. A grandson lives there too.
“I knew Mom and Dad needed me on the farm when they got older,” she said. “I told my husband a long time ago I’m non-relocatable.”
Now, she has to be. But she and her husband found a smaller place off Alder Road in north Pasco, where she plans to run the produce stand.
“I don’t know how much we’ll sell next year,” she said. “I’ve been handing out cards to customers. But gardens need to be planted by the 15th of April.”
Meanwhile, she understands that once the property sale closes, she has to get moving.
“At the closing, we have 120 days to be out of here,” Fleshman said. “In this whole thing, we have three houses on the farm we have to condense into one in six months.”
They’re going to sell off most of the animals.
“The pigs, for instance,” she said. “I’d need help with them. I can’t work with them alone.”
But they’ll also keep some other animals. It’s what she loves about farming.
“Animals are my favorite part of the farm,” she said. “Because animals need your help. And I’m a person that needs to be needed. I just like the whole thing about farming.
“We’ve always got up and did our chores at 6 a.m. The kids did chores, too. I worked off of the farm for 10 years (at Pasco High School), and there was nothing like coming back to the farm. It was nice to come back to the farm and be my own boss. Farming is oh so rewarding.”
Time to sell
Fleshman said they’ve had offers before to sell the property.
That included one man from the Lewiston area whose attempt to buy the land fell through this past July.
That got everyone in the family thinking about selling.
“The kids said, ‘Let’s advertise.’ My brother David and I talked to an attorney,” Fleshman said. “Our lawyer told us the best piece of advice is go to auction. And even though an auction is scary, David and I met with Scott Musser.”
If the family doesn’t like the final bid, they can pull it off the table.\
Either way, Fleshman is nervous about the auction.
“I’m hoping we get a good price,” she said. “It all depends on how many bidders there are.”
Musser said being nervous is normal.
“It’s a huge undertaking for our clients on anything we auction, whether it’s $100,000 or $10 million,” Musser said. “Their property is the most important asset they control. It creates some trepidation and expectations, and it can be a little nerve-wracking.”
He won’t guess on the auction’s outcome.
“It’s always difficult to predict,” he said. “It’s a crap shoot. It could be five people bidding, it could be 15. But we’re getting good responses. The right amount of people are putting out questions, requesting information.”
The auction will be at the Musser Bros. auction facility, 3125 Rickenbacker Drive in Pasco, at 2 p.m. Nov. 14. Learn more at mbauction.com.