For much of the past two decades Ken and Deonn Krahn grazed livestock and grew produce on their 10-acre farm in Lakebay.
But when both husband and wife passed away a few years ago, legal and financial issues placed the farm in jeopardy.
Now Deonn’s daughter, Kristina Kruzan, is attempting to save the property from being auctioned off.
According to Kruzan, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has placed a hefty lien against the property to recoup health care expenses the family incurred during Ken Krahn’s cancer treatment a few years ago. The DSHS can take the property at any time, and “if DSHS takes the farm, we get nothing,” Kruzan said.
A separate issue is the farm’s clouded title. Despite the requests of family members, when Krahn passed away he did not leave a will, and due to a clerical error the farm’s title incorrectly listed Krahn and his ex-wife (also deceased) as owners. With other family members having released all interest in the farm to her, Kruzan has been to court on multiple occasions in an attempt to get the title changed to her name.
However, once the title is in Kruzan’s name, she inherits the debt as well, she said.
Although DSHS has determined the family faces undue hardship and has reduced the $92,000 they owe by nearly half, Kruzan will need to find a way to make $800 a month payments until she can sell it to her cousin Donald Decker, who is currently managing the farm.
The farm’s gentle hills and secluded location would make it an ideal spot for a home. Unfortunately, a lack of inhabitable buildings on the farm mean the banks are unlikely to loan on it. The 400 square foot kit house Krahn built years ago is not up to code, and lacks any heat source other than a wood stove. Kruzan said that she would need to get a new dwelling added to the property in order to facilitate the transfer.
One recent success keeps Kruzan hopeful. In addition to the money owed to DSHS, until recently nearly $3,000 in 2011-2013 taxes were past due as well.
For help Kruzan turned to the crowd-sourced fundraiser site youcaring.org. There she created a page explaining the issues the farm was facing and asked the public to give what they could. Her goal was to raise $2,750. Almost immediately $10 and $20 donations, many from their Key Peninsula neighbors, began to post on the page.
Kruzan said she was thrilled to watch the donations pile up. Within a few weeks the goal had been met, and in late May Kruzan paid the taxes and posted an update thanking everyone who had helped out.
The outpouring of support from Key Peninsula residents mirrors the generosity the Krahn family showed their neighbors.
Krahn frequently allowed others to pasture their animals on the land. They were also stewards of the environment, avoiding chemical fertilizers and preferring organic methods for the crops grown on their farm. For decades Ken Krahn worked cutting, drying and baling hay. He also got to know many Key Peninsula residents working as a mobile butcher for Farmer George meats.
Today the farm is under the care of Donald Decker. Goats, pigs and chickens, raised for meat, roam freely alongside a couple of friendly dogs.
Despite the obstacles, Kruzan said that she is determined to find success.
“There have been lots of challenges, but it seems like there is only one way through.”
Kristina Kruzan’s fight to save the Krahn farm continues. For information and updates, visit youcaring.org.