This week we’re featuring the town of Harrington, Washington (pop. 424) and sharing some of the stories of rural revival happening here! Today’s guest post is from Justin Slack, Mayor of Harrington and owner of The Post & Office, alongside his wife, Heather. Their family moved to Harrington five years ago and we think they would all agree...it was the best decision ever! Welcome, Justin!
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Harrington, Washington is one of eight cities or towns located in Lincoln County; the fifth largest county in the state by geographic area, but the fifth smallest (out of 39 counties in Washington State) when it comes to population. Harrington is practically at the geographic center of the county and we have only 420 residents. Lincoln County is in the heart of dryland wheat country, second only to nearby Whitman County as the state’s largest wheat producers. And, with dryland farming, or at least here where the average annual rainfall is about 10-11 inches, farmers only get to farm half of their ground each year (with the hopes that two seasons’ worth of rain will replenish their fields and yield yet another crop the following season). In addition to wheat, we also have many cattle ranchers, too.
Harrington is interesting. It is 51 miles west/ southwest of Spokane, which is just far enough for a lot of services and service providers to say that we are too far for them. And in reality, that is fine, because we have tradesmen in Davenport, which is 13 miles north up State Route 28 (along US-2), where we can get most things taken care of. As late as the 1950’s and 60’s, Harrington thrived with five gas stations and three auto dealerships, a pharmacy, a John Deere/Caterpillar equipment dealership just to name a few things. As time passed, kids moved away for college and many didn’t make it back to the family farms or businesses. Farms too changed, with many of the small, family farms giving way to either being put into CRP or being leased or sold to neighboring farmers looking (or needing) to expand in order to keep farming. In this regard though, Harrington has been lucky because there haven’t been too many farms put into CRP where nothing is needed (hired hands, mechanics, equipment dealers, etc.), but as these operations have expanded, farm families have been shrinking.
Not being from here has allowed me to see the town differently (I think) than many who’ve never really left (at least for very long). When exploring the option to move here, we were able to see and feel things like community pride, important history, and plenty of opportunity, while many living here lamented that it was a dying town. We saw a strong K-12 school all under one roof, we saw the bold grain elevators rising above the town, we saw the four-block stretch of a business district with wonderful old buildings, albeit mostly vacant, as well as sidewalk lined streets and a bright green, tree-filled city park. When describing where we had moved to, to co-workers and folks in Seattle, where we moved from, I often times used words like “idyllic” and “Norman Rockwell-esque” to depict what we saw Harrington to be. Now, five years later, I still find myself using those words — just this week actually. In talking to one gentleman in 2015, he told me when he was in high school, there were 26 entries in the phonebook with his family’s last name — now, while not 26, there are still about a half-dozen here. There are several third, fourth, and even fifth-generation farm families here, with many getting land grants for homesteading in the late 1880’s from the US Government.
People often wonder what is going on in Harrington and why there is such a buzz about it. I promise if you sit in The Post & Office and listen to a few conversations you will understand. The community pride, new and old friends, and a sense of home...we’ve got it here.
Planning a road trip to Harrington? Don’t miss these Instagram hot spots:
Find out more about the rural revival happening in Harrington, Washington here: