For the Good of the Order is a story of the social, political, and economic forces at play in the struggle over land use in western Washington State, as told from the perspective of the owners of a dairy farm on the Nisqually River delta in southern Puget Sound.
Three generations of the Braget family farmed the Nisqually property with a love and affinity for the land that reflected the agricultural background of their Norwegian ancestors and the blood, sweat, and tears they spilled there for almost 100 years.
Central to the book are the issues of land stewardship and the relationship of private ownership to the public trust. Perched on the edge of the Nisqually River estuary, the Braget dairy farm was the target of myriad proposals to develop or manage the delta by private entrepreneurs, ports, local, state, and federal governments (including the U.S. Army) and, starting in the 1960s, the environmental and conservationist movements. Year after year, and at great personal cost, the family defended their own understanding of the highest and best use of the land, resisting all efforts by predatory agencies, anonymous institutions, and even their neighbors and natural catastrophes to deprive them of it.
Finally, orphaned, elderly, and childless, Kenny Braget struggled to pass on the farm in a way that would protect his family’s legacy. In 2002, he found a willing buyer that shared his values and love of the land, the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He knew that to improve the return of fish to the estuary the tribe would remove the dikes that his family had maintained on the tide flats for a century, but he also knew he would be able to continue to live on the farm and hunt ducks there for the rest of his life. And he would say, “If we can’t grow cows on the land, let’s grow salmon!”
When reading through the pages of For the Good of the Order, the new book authored by Timothy W. Ransom, several thoughts came to my mind. One is that this publication is the product of years of careful research and writing. As a historian I was amazed by the skillful use of archival/library sources and oral histories. In addition, the book successfully conveys the sweep of Euro-American history on the Nisqually Delta as expressed in the specific story of the Braget Farm. One sees in the unfolding of Ken Braget’s life the changing attitudes towards the environment that marked 20th century America. Ken’s farm may no longer 'grow' cows (it is no longer a dairy), but it now helps 'grow' fish, as part of the ongoing restoration of the Nisqually River’s environment. This book is recommended to anyone who would like to better understand the history of people and nature in South Puget Sound.
The story of the Braget family and the Nisqually Delta is so important, as an illustration of social trends, alternative futures and what it takes to achieve an outcome that benefits future generations and the world we live in.
Ransom’s history is a masterpiece in uncovering the meaning of Braget’s life and mission and its import for the preservation of the Nisqually Delta
Dr. Ransom developed policies and programs for the protection of Puget Sound’s waters and habitats for the state of Washington for fifteen years. He is an oral historian, photographer, and naturalist, and has published extensively on the behavior of nonhuman primates, marine mammals, and raptors. His first book was Baboons of the Gombe (Bucknell University Press). Ransom lives in Olympia, Washington, with his wife and fellow lover of trees.