We’re on a trip… as you may know. We’re currently in Oregon, working our way north through Washington to BC. Along the way, we are connecting with local farmers, trading information, and forging friendships.
I have been completely humbled by the hospitality and generosity of the farmers we have been meeting along this trip. It is heartwarming to see the enthusiasm with which farmers welcome us into their homes…. and totally randomly, I just go online and look up the local farms and reach out via email… so far i have had 100% positive responses.
What I love about visiting farms (apart from geeking out with fellow farmers) is meeting people who think outside of the box and experiencing the paradigm shift of seeing something in a different light.
Here are three farms we visited last week that each have their own particular paradigm smashing perspective.
Valley Flora Farm: Langlois, Oregon
Located up a peaceful valley along the Pacific coast in southern Oregon, Valley Flora farm is a gem of beauty and unorthodox family farming.
The fact is, Valley Flora Farm is in reality three farms in one… one for each member of the family… a mother and her two grown daughters. Betsy settled here about 30 years ago and currently farms greenhouse on hoop house crops (Solanaceae and Cucurbits in summer. Greens in winter); Abby came back and settled on the farm in the early 2000’s and intensively grows top quality salad mix for the local restaurant and wholesale market (I mean.. really nice greens! (Probably about 1 acre); Last but not least Zoë came back to the farm in the late 2000’s and grows about 5 acres of mixed vegetables for a 100 member CSA, a thriving farm stand, a couple wholesale accounts, and ½ acre of you pick Strawberries; Zoë does most of her farming using draft horses though she also has a tractor for certain tasks.
What marked me the most was the unconventional family farm model that allows these three women to collaborate while at the same time do their own thing. The products are all marketed under the Valley Flora Farm brand, and Quickbooks just takes care of distributing the money to each business each month. Collective expenses are distributed proportionally to gross sales of each business.
Together and seperate… at the same time. And laughing, and loving.
Thank you for welcoming us!
Cully Neighborhood Farm/Slow Hand Farm: Portland, Oregon
Josh Volks is a veteran small farmer, author, teacher, consultant, innovator, and inventor…. and the owner of Slow Hand Farm.
We visited him at his latest farm right in the heart of a residential neighborhood in Portland…. ½ acre farm in partnership with Cully Neighborhood Farm.
Our visit coincided with on of their on farm CSA pick up days for their 65 member CSA. The thing is… everyday is a pickup day, since this farm is run 2 days per week… literally, I mean the farm only operates 2 days per week. In total the two owners and a handful of employees work the equivalent of 6 labor days per week. (Ie 48 person hours per week total labour input).
It is a nice example of how farms are here to serve us as tool to accomplish certain personal goals or life’s intentions. For some people this means full time, for some people this means part time so as to create space for other interests and goals.
Full Plate Farm: Ridgefield, Washington
Located just north of Portland Oregon, Full Plate Farm is another great example of taking a unconventional approach to using farming to build an incredible lifestyle… cause that’s ultimately what it’s about… putting in place the element to live the life of our dreams!
The farm is Danny’s business; Michelle is an artist and college professor. It is important to note that this is by choice and not be economic necessity. There is this ideal of working with our spouses, but this is only ideal if that is what both people want. (actually, this is something that all three of these farms have in common.
The next unconventional element of FPF is that they grow 3 acres of field vegetables and 2 high tunnels for a 90 member winter only CSA. The CSA starts in November and runs through the end of March. The delivery are every second week allowing Danny to have a week off in between for travel, family, and farm admin. Most of the crops are actually harvested directly from the field all winter long in this mild, rainy coastal climate… although he is moving more towards bulk harvesting carrots and storing them in the cold room to reduce field loss to rot.
What I find interesting is the wisdom of choosing a winter CSA model rather than fighting with a fairly saturated summer CSA market and dealing with poorly draining fields in the spring.
Danny mostly does all the farm work with the help of a part time employee 1 or 2 days per week. Oh… and Danny only works 4 days per week so as to be able to spend time with his three children and take family trips… In fact when we were visiting, they were getting ready for a 1 week camping trip… in JULY!