Since Oregon Farm Link (previously iFarm) began connecting beginning farmers to land in 2009, Oregon’s landlink program has made more than 70 successful land matches across the state. We are beginning to collect our success stories and share them here. Check the page regularly as new testimonials become available!
When I got on the phone with Bryan Dickerson of Dancing Roots Farm, we just talked. We talked for 45 minutes before realizing that our interview hadn’t even started yet. Bryan’s passion is magnetic and bold; he’s opinionated, excited, and is a bottomless well of knowledge. He’s a farmer, yes, but also an educator at heart and in practice.
Like any good teacher, Bryan loves to keep learning. He gets energized about what young farmers are doing in the fields that he’d never dreamed possible. “Some of these young farmers are really doing amazing work - sometimes I wonder if they're human,” he laughed. He’s filled with pride to know that the work done by the farmers of his generation has offered a foundation of information and resources for young farmers to build on, giving them space to expand on more creative farming methods. “I think that's the most beautiful thing in the world,” he said, “not having to recreate the wheel. When young farmers can gather information from previous generations and take that to the next level, man that’s the best.”
Though not the singular reason, this love for supporting the next generation of farmers was at the heart of the decision to lease out part of Dancing Roots’ land on Oregon Farm Link. He wanted to offer something he and Shari Sirkin (Bryan’s wife and farming partner, and the Executive Director of Friends of Family Farmers) didn’t have when they were first starting out: a turnkey operation that allows a farmer to just “get on the land and start farming, without having to spend all that time building the infrastructure from the ground up.”
That’s when Ben Morelli and his dream of Thousand Furrows Farm came into the picture. Ben was ready to bring his vision to life after earning an Eco-Engineering degree, and gaining first-hand experience through farming apprenticeships and a term with AmeriCorps. He needed to find farmland that fit his financial and geographical needs, and allowed him to transition back to his Oregon roots with a plan in place. “I was still living on the east coast and I was planning to move back [to Oregon] so I was having to look for land at a distance, which is challenging. It's hard to find farmland to lease unless you’re already very personally connected to the community.” So Ben turned to Oregon Farm Link and, in the fall of 2018, found the right fit with Bryan and Shari in Troutdale.
Initially, Ben was intimidated by the infrastructure set up on Bryan and Shari’s land. Because it was a turnkey operation, it didn’t necessarily allow for Ben to develop his vision from scratch, plus, better amenities meant higher leasing rates. But after nearly a year of looking for the right opportunity, this one finally felt like home.
Now, Thousand Furrows and Dancing Roots operate side-by-side, separate but symbiotic. Ben grows a variety of vegetables, selling at a farmers market and to restaurants in the area. Bryan specializes in winter squash and has started growing ashwagandha, a nightshade plant grown for its roots and used in tinctures for holistic medicine. Along the way, they’re learning from each other and developing a support system that keeps each farm operating independently of one another, while sharing equipment as well as soil regeneration methods.
The set up has turned out to provide Ben with invaluable insight, gaining experience with the resources that come along with the property rental, “I didn’t have to invest up front which certainly saved me money - it gives me an opportunity to learn on someone else's equipment so when I’m ready to start my own, I have a better idea of what I'm looking for.” Bryan discusses how he benefits from their relationship, too, absorbing inspiration and knowledge from working in such close range with another totally distinctive farm. “Any two organic farmers aren’t always going to see eye to eye. Ben is trying some things that we wouldn’t have tried but I see that he’s done his calculations and done his research and it seems like it's the best solution to the problem. It's making us open our eyes to somebody else’s take, so that's good.” A cozy reminder that through community and shared experience, we all have something to gain.
Bryan and Ben do, however, always see eye-to-eye on one clear point of advice to those using Farm Link: as in any relationship, clear boundaries, honest communication, and compromise are the cornerstone to a successful lessee/lessor partnership. What initially brought them together was each party’s clear-cut and distinct explanation of their visions and their needs for their own operations, detailed in their Farm Link profiles. Bryan explains that even just being associated with Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) already puts you in pretty close range with people who share a similar outlook on the kind of world they want to help create. “It’s a special organization that’s working for good. The fact that this is a program that’s fulfilling a need for people looking for land that can link up with others who have land...and they already share values!” He stops there, left speechless by his own excitement about it all.
Farm Link’s purpose is to drive collaboration, build community, and provide opportunities for experienced farmers to help grow the next generation of Oregon family farmers. It’s a helping hand, held out to those farmers who are in it for the love of the game and for the chance at creating a better tomorrow through greater food, greater connection, and greater good. If Bryan and Ben’s story has taught us anything, it’s that working together only makes us stronger; that learning from each other only makes us better; and that, no matter the challenges that lie ahead, we can all get by with a little help from our friends. Story by Lisa Tridle - FoFF Volunteer
In late January, I had the pleasure of visiting Short Stock Farm in Hillsboro and learning about the shared vision that has made for a successful land match between farmer Kris and landowners Alice and Steve. I was greeted by Alice, who began to show me around and share her enthusiasm for the natural world. We looked out across an expanse of grassy farmland dotted with fence lines and a beautiful white barn, forested hills in the horizon and watched a light rain feed the dormant plant life all around us. Alice and Steve’s property is only 10 acres but has the feel of a much larger farm due to the adjacent idyllic Century Farm. Alice tells me that the property was essentially a flat rectangle with a home and barn when they first purchased it. Together with Kris they have created a range of habitat including a pond, hedges, shade and carefully chosen native plants to benefit pollinators. I ask Alice what drew her to agriculture now that she is retired? She says she has long been “fascinated by the multiple social and environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture.” She also tells me, “farming ‘wisely’ seems to be the place where environmental restoration, social justice, public health and community resilience all come together,” and she “can’t think of anything better than that!” Alice had been working to improve the soil but realized that her goals for the land were not compatible with her retired lifestyle and that she needed help to realize the potential for environmental healing she envisioned. With her goals and vision in mind, Alice listed the property on Oregon Farm Link. There she found Kris, who had been building her experience on various farms and was ready to take the next step in building her own farm business. The two bonded over shared values, vision and goals and Alice was excited to find someone who “was seeking and planning to do everything that I was trying to do and hoping could happen on my land.” As we strolled by the remnants of last years’ veggie crops, Kris joined me and Alice and talked about her path to becoming a farmer. Kris had attended the University of Oregon where she studied and worked tirelessly as a community organizer and activist fighting climate change and seeking to create a better future. Exhausted from fighting a seemingly impossible battle, she signed up for an urban farming class that ended up sparking a new passion. “From the first seed I planted I was hooked. My path was clear.” From that first seed, Kris took the time to immerse herself in the small farms community and ask herself if farming was really something she wanted long term. Over the six years she worked on farms in the Willamette Valley she found that, “time and time again, when I looked deeply into myself I found the answer to be “yes, yes I want to farm!” Leasing land has allowed Kris to build her business at a sustainable rate without the burden and expense of land ownership. She says that leasing has been a powerful arrangement for multiple reasons: First, she has been able to save capital and re-invest in her farm. Secondly, she has been able to share resources and collaborate with Alice and Steve on mutually beneficial projects for the land. Lastly, though Alice and Steve are not farmers, they have provided valuable social and emotional support that any young farmer needs to take on the daily challenges and avoid burnout. Kris’ goal for Short Stock Farm is to benefit the environment and be financially supported through a variety of income streams. Currently the farm specializes in pasture raised poultry, sustainably grown produce from the half-acre market garden, and an educational and agritourism component with intentional events and gatherings. In addition to vegetables and events, Kris plans to put energy into expanding the pasture raised meat aspect of her business by raising an ambitious 900 birds and rabbits to be processed and sold on the farm this year. She plans to build each aspect of the business bit by bit in order to grow sustainably and build a future in farming where she can eventually have her own land and raise a family. I’m inspired by her description of what farming means to her, “The beauty of farming is it engages my broad range of interests. As a farmer I am a scientist, a community organizer, a maker, a business owner, and artist, a wildlife protector, and above all a shaper of the future who remains curious and always learning.” Despite the drizzle, the three of us donned our Carhartt jackets and spent the morning walking around the farm discussing the successes and challenges they’ve seen on the farm and I felt honored to hear their shared vision for the future of agriculture in Oregon. What advice do Alice and Kris offer for other land holders and land seekers looking for a good match?
One challenge with leasing is long-term security, in that farmers end up investing valuable time and money into soil that they cannot take with them when the lease ends. Kris suggests investing energy into designing a portable farm model, essentially a solid business plan that can be moved to a new location if needed. Leasing has allowed a first generation farmer like Kris to develop her farm business with a significant safety-net, while Alice and Steve feel the benefits have been learning, enjoying home grown food, help in caring for and restoring their land and on top of that, “We get to watch a farmer grow, which we find wonderfully fun!” A huge thank you to Alice, Steve and Kris for spending a few hours sharing your experience with FoFF. May it be an inspiration to others seeking to help Oregon grow the next generation of family farmers!
Yamhill County’s major agricultural products include berries, tree nuts, and nursery stock…and if Javier Lara has his way, nopales, or edible cactus pods, will soon be added to the list. It’s early on a Tuesday morning, and I am strolling through the newest property for Anahuac Produce. Javier directs me to a row of small greenhouses, some filled with strawberries and others with cucumbers and tomatoes. “Try this!” he says, pointing to a large, heart-shaped leaf. I nibble on the corner of a hoja santa plant, delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted: a mix of anise, cilantro, citrus and eucalyptus. It’s important to Javier to cultivate these plants from his native Mexico, and he is excited to have the opportunity to share them with others. Javier was a farmworker for several years when he first came to America, experiencing first-hand the challenges of that work. He then spent years working as an organizer for PCUN. Based in Woodburn, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, or Northwest Treeplanters & Farmworkers United), is Oregon’s only farmworkers union, as well as the largest Latino organization in the state. At PCUN Javier worked closely with Oregon’s farmworkers, empowering them to take action against the systematic exploitation so often present within the agricultural labor system. After exploring the reality of many of America’s farmworkers through his tenure at PCUN, Javier wanted to have the experience again, with a different perspective, as an organizer. This is why he founded his own farm: Anahuac Produce. Anahuac Produce is guided by 4 core values. Javier is dedicated to socially and environmentally sustainable production, raising his produce organically and supporting fair and just labor practices by partnering with PCUN’s union workers. The word Anahuac, Javier explained to me, is an indigenous name that refers to the ancient core of Mexico, and likewise tradition is extremely important. As we walked through the farm, Javier showed me the spot where he roasted lamb in celebration of the farm’s creation, and the small altar where he made traditional offerings before breaking ground in the fields. He consults elders to learn the traditional methods of farming, working to ensure that the cultural and agricultural heritage of his people is not forgotten. The crop selections at Javier’s also echo this commitment to tradition. He is dedicated to cultivating unique vegetables from his people that are often difficult to find in Oregon: the juicy pads of nopal cacti, herbs like papalo, and many varieties of peppers. Javier explains how shoppers enjoy trying these new vegetables: a cultural bridge. Finally, Anahuac Produce feels it is essential to share freely and generously the knowledge that they have gained with fellow farmers, supporting the growth of similar operations throughout Oregon. Now in its third year, the farm began with two acres of organic berry fields in Molalla. When Javier decided he wanted to expand the operation, he began to search for land on Oregon Farm Link. As soon as he met the owners of his current site, Kathy and Rick, it was clear that it was a match. Although the land was fallow, there was much potential! Javier began his work in earnest there this winter, clearing fields and creating beds, building a propagation room to start the heirloom seeds he’d brought back from Mexico, and retrofitting greenhouse structures onsite to provide shelter to tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. As Javier excitedly discusses the plans he has for the future, it’s hard to believe he’s only been growing at this site for several months. In an unexpected twist, Javier is currently in the process of facilitating yet another Oregon Farm Link match! Javier has been working closely with a local youth over the past year, whom he met through his work with PCUN. Javier immediately noticed this youth’s interest in agriculture, and offered him more responsibility at Anahuac. Within several months, the young man told Javier he had created a profile on Farm Link and found a new property in Brooks where Anahuac could expand their organic berry production! This seems like a natural progression from someone whose business model is predicated on freely sharing information and experience. As my farm visit is drawing to a close Javier and I turn around to gaze back at the fields, abundant with freshly planted rows of onions, peas, kohlrabi, and more. He mentions how busy he’s been with the farm, and how he recently found himself at the end of a long day transplanting tomatoes by the light of a full moon. “It doesn’t even feel like work,” Javier said. “It’s something magical.”
What gnaws at us all is the regret of an unlived life. We have every opportunity and ability to pursue our passions to the fullest, but too often fall victim to procrastination. It affects us all, some of us it cripples. Those who do wake each morning and do exactly what they want are envied, glorified, even studied. But they are merely doing what they love. The world is a better place when someone finds that which keeps them up each night and rouses them from bed every morning. For local long-stem flower farmers Lindsay Goldberg and Courtney Brooks—owners of Fawn Lily Farm—finding time for such contemplations may be difficult. The native California gals recently begin their second year as Oregonians and their second season as professional flower farmers. Within mere months, the flower duo was able to turn an idea hatched in a California craft fair into a viable and profitable flower and herb farm in the green hills of Corbett, OR. With no business plan, no long-stem flower experience and no connections, the peddlers moved to Oregon and began what they call their grand experiment: learning how to run a small business while dealing with the setbacks and self doubt associated with mastering a new skill. They are farming a half acre with a hoop house on a 20-acre plot, most of which is forested. The Fawn Lily women’s growing process is centered on locally-adapted, open pollinated, pesticide-free growing. These practices suit the owners of the land, Michael and Pam, just fine– they had been looking someone with a similar ethos for some time. The group was brought together with the help of iFarm Oregon—a program created by non-profit Friends of Family Farmers—which links those who have land with those that need it. Lindsay greets me with hands so muddy she’s forced to withdraw once she notices my city boy mitts. Pam the owner is out chatting and welcomes with a smile as well. It’s a little cold and rainy but dry in the hoop house where seed sowing is all the rage. Courtney is just finishing parking her sedan. Although they are at the start of their flower careers, the women carry themselves as if they had worked the ground for years. At one point, I’m given a pep talk as I admit my own unfulfilled aspiration of raising grass-fed cows some day. They seem confused by my procrastination. Courtney ends with, “You’re not dead yet.” I am not dead, but there is no certainty that I’ll even finish writing this profile, let alone start a cattle operation. Fawn Lily, in their first year was selling flowers in New Seasons. They gained favor of New Seasons’ buying manger as they left her message everyday until “she eventually replied with, ‘How many of you are there?” Fawn Lily’s blooms showed up in a few stores last year and will be in more store locations in 2016. As I chat with Pam and the Fawn Lily crew it’s easy to see how such as casual arrangement can work. “We had two guys here for six years that worked our place and took great care of it,” Pam tells me, “but we had been looking for someone else since 2000.” Courtney and Lindsay on the other hand traded only 5 or so emails with landowners on iFarm before getting an instant reply from Pam. The arrangement seems to be a good fit. “We didn’t have a lot of capital and we’re not builders,” Lindsay explains, “so some [existing] infrastructure was important.” An accomplishment of note is their recent inclusion in the Portland Flower Market, which is Portland’s wholesale “farmer-to-florist” market. This move will give Fawn Lily’s product constant exposure to buyers in a very competitive field. “We have to specialize in a niche that the fresh cut flower industry can’t provide. [We] try to get people to think about the idea of slow flowers, that origin matters, and the true cost of flowers.” Courtney also mentions that it is nice to not to have to be at the Portland Flower Market in person in order to sell their goods. The new Oregonians have adapted well to their surroundings. Despite not knowing a soul upon arrival, they now credit much of their success to the community of small farmers they’ve a made a point to join. They both feel that having a mentor would have made things smoother, but they have received lots of help from fellow sod busters. “That’s what keeps us going. Everyone is in it to help out. Everyone is transparent. People are even willing to share their spreadsheets,” says Lindsay. “We cleaned the guy’s house right up here,” Courtney adds pointing toward Mt. Hood, “in exchange for tilling our field.” It’s not easy to find one’s life task, let alone have the courage to pursue it. Courtney and Lindsay created Fawn Lily Farm through action and acceptance of the unknown. A good lesson for us all: always listen to that voice in your head. She ain’t always right, but she’s never boring. by Coby Harrod, FoFF volunteer
While touring the property leased by Nathan Moomaw, founder and farmer of Moomaw Family Farm, it is easy to observe the freedom that his animals experience. His chickens chase one another and cluck their gossipy tidbits. Nathan pets an affectionate sheep while explaining how this breed sheds naturally in spring so it stays cool in the summer months. The pigs are playful at all ages and are exceptionally interested in nuzzling and nibbling my toes. A native Oregonian, Nathan Moomaw lived the city life in Chicago as an audio engineer before moving to an alpaca farm to work as the caretaker from 2003-2005. His agricultural interests and connections burgeoned while caretaking the farm. Nathan eventually relocated to Milwaukie, Wisconsin where he began working with CSAs and direct market vegetable farms, tending stands at as many as five markets per week. Nathan’s experiences working with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business models were formative to his current business strategy. He appreciated the select and direct customer relationships CSA operations create. In the CSA model, customers “buy a share” of the farm’s produce in advance. This allows the farmer or rancher to plan production to meet a known goal and helps with cash flow by providing funds at the beginning of the season, when they’re most needed. Nathan also witnessed the repetitive nutrient loss intrinsic to vegetable production: crops collect nutrients from the soil; those crops then store hard-earned nutrients in their fruits, leaves, and roots, which are transported from the farm to mouths in cities. After being consumed or discarded, those nutrients are wasted – flushed away as sewage. By choosing to raise meat for his CSA, Nathan hoped to do a better job of closing the nutrient loop. His system is one where livestock consume essential nutrients from the pasture and then metabolize those nutrients, ultimately depositing them back into the same pasture as fertilizer for future growth. Inspiring Nathan’s farming ethos is a “simple but powerful” quote in the book, The Little Prince: “You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.” Nathan explains that, “the human tendency seems to be to control, manage, and improve nature, which is okay; however, every time we make a decision to go in that direction, we are replacing a natural system, one that was sustaining and managing itself, with an artificial system, a system that we are now responsible for maintaining.” From my visit to his farm, it is clear that he assumes this responsibility seriously. After nearly ten years in the Midwest, Nathan opted to return to his home state of Oregon to effectuate his goals with the help of his family. Nathan caught wind of Friends of Family Farmers’ agricultural landlink program, iFarm, all the way back in the Midwest. He explained, “I was thrilled to find iFarm while I was getting ready to start my own farm. Most states don’t have a land-linking program like iFarm, so I was very thankful to be able to use such a helpful tool to find farmland to lease here in Oregon.” Once back in the Pacific Northwest in spring of 2012, Nathan began his search for land. To his great fortune, Nathan struck a chord with the very first property he visited. What appealed to Nathan most about Drizzlewood Farm (located just outside of Molalla) were the farm’s 300-year-old oak trees, which could provide an annual crop of acorns that his pigs would happily consume. Harlan Shober, one of Drizzlewood’s owners, had been in contact with several other iFarm landseekers before he met Nathan. Because Drizzlewood’s 100 acres are beyond Nathan’s start-up capacity, Nathan and Harlan created a variable-cost lease where Nathan’s lease payments vary depending on the amount of livestock he runs. It took several months for Harlan, his wife Kathy, and Nathan to negotiate the terms of the lease; months that, Harlan says, were “time well spent.” “I wouldn’t rush it,” Harlan advised. “There’s so much at stake; a sour relationship could take all the fun out of it… It’s all a matter of being as clear as possible about what is and is not on offer, and understanding what the other guy needs.” By paying only for the land he uses, Nathan can conserve his financial resources. This agreement also affords the CSA plenty of room to grow – something that Moomaw Family Farm will surely need. The CSA sold all 65 of its initial shares and there is a waiting list. Currently, the Moomaw meat CSA offers chicken, lamb, rabbit, and pork. Nathan hopes to add beef to his offerings in the future. As for why it is important to Harlan to bring new farmers onto farmland, he explains, “farm income can’t support current land prices. If we don’t get the land in sustainable production, sooner or later all our best efforts to implement land use planning and to preserve farmland will fail.” With the average age of Oregon farmers at 58, there will be a mass changing of hands of farmland in the next two decades. The future of Oregon agriculture will rely upon landholders like Harlan Schober, who are passionate about supporting Oregon’s farmers and local food system, just as much as it will rely upon ranchers like Nathan Moomaw, who are passionate about sustainably raising delicious and nutritious food for Oregon eaters. iFarm Oregon is one tool for addressing this impending land crisis. To find out more about iFarm, Oregon’s landlinking program, view our online database of landholders and landseekers at http://oregonfarmlink.org, and email email@example.com. By Erinn Criswell and Nellie McAdams
By Sophie Javna, 7/30/13 In 1981, Richard and Joyce Stanley bought 10 acres of farmland in Ashland, Oregon. They had been working in East Africa to develop in rural development and alternative energy project. This work took them overseas constantly and the Stanleys knew they would need a farm that didn’t require the constant care of raising vegetables or livestock. So they decided to transform their new grazing land into a tree farm; trees, thankfully, require little maintenance. Planting literally thousands of trees—mostly ponderosa pines and incense cedars—on their previously bare grazing land, Richard and Joyce created what is now a backyard of mini-forests. Along with 50-foot ponderosas and cedars, the Stanleys also grow plum, apple, peach, cherry, and pear trees. They named their home Karibu Farm. The word “Karibu” (unlike Karibou) is Kiswahili for “Welcome.” The Stanleys welcomed a bridge between their conservation work overseas and their new tree farm in Southern Oregon. Over time they formalized their commitment to conservation by starting the Legacy Foundation and focusing mainly on training in biomass briquette production. Find out more about their love of trees by reading about their project with the Legacy Foundation. However, not every new tree seedling took root on Karibu Farm and Joyce and Richard found themselves with extra farmland. That’s where Oregon’s agricultural landlinkink program, iFarm, came in. After hearing about iFarm through the Ashland Farmers’ Market, Joyce and Richard placed an ad for their unused land. After a month, they received a response from Jake Hayes, a local Ashland farmer looking for his own plot. In 2009, Jake signed a contract with the Stanleys to lease two acres of pasture. “Our connection worked because Jake came to us with a well thought out business plan,” explains Joyce Stanley, “and a strong and obvious commitment to establishing a well-designed and functioning small farm set-up.” Jake was also a good fit because, unlike many other iFarm applicants, he didn’t require housing, which was unavailable on the property. Jake’s desire to farm dates back to his earliest memories of his uncle’s farm in Utah, he tells in his blog. “The experience was profound,” he recalls, “even though at that age I couldn’t have expressed it in words.” Jake’s own Pradaria Farm now thrives on two acres of the Stanleys’ property, where he raises chicken (for meat and eggs), turkeys, goats, and sheep. The name Pradaria, Portuguese for “grassland,” denotes Jake’s “simple approach to farming” and pays homage to his Portuguese heritage and their early farming techniques. With four years of experience, Pradaria Farm has expanded its offerings. Customers can sign up for Jake’s new chicken CSA, or purchase chicken eggs or turkey meat from the farm. If you’re interested in turkey, don’t wait too long to purchase it. “Last year we sold out in about an hour,” Jake cautioned. He attributes this popularity to the turkey’s diet, which is rich in summer grasses and makes “the tastiest turkey I have ever had.” The Stanleys have renewed their contract with Jake every year and the relationship continues to benefit both parties. Joyce and Richard are currently working with communities in Guatemala to protect forests and are very happy to know that their land in Ashland is, as Joyce says, “being used to its fullest.” Jake will most likely expand his farm next year to incorporate one more acre of Karibu Farm into his operation. The relationship, Joyce and Richard explain, will be a lasting one. From one farmer to another, Jake thanks Joyce and Richard and encourages others to do the same. “If you meet the Stanleys, please thank them for making local, clean, food a priority.”
By Sophie Javna, 8/19/13 Ken Cairns bought his land in Sherwood, Oregon when his daughter was born. He grew up on his own ranch located between Ashland, Oregon and Yreka, California, and wanted his child to live on open land too, surrounded by animals. Ken remembers how much his daughter loved her horses—in fact, she didn’t want to give them away when she left for college. Ken still keeps her horses in the old stable while she’s at graduate school. “You want some horses?” He asks jokingly. Four years ago, Ken put up one-fifth of his land for lease to a farmer on iFarm. He was looking for someone to farm the land responsibly, with a good plan and good sense. Ken had trouble finding a perfect match right away; many people replied to his offer, including farmers with grand ideas but little strategy. But after three years, Ken was able to make a lasting connection with Josh Johnson of Finnegan Cider. Finding a match on iFarm wasn’t as difficult for Josh—he found Ken Cairns in almost no time. “When I contacted other [landholders]… they all just had an honest interest in people trying to use their land.” Josh says. “They appreciate [their land], want to see it used, and want a responsible person to be a steward of the land for them. That’s a pretty good group of people to work with.” Josh discovered iFarm when he decided to grow cider apples. Josh remembers pressing apples at an orchard in California when he was a kid and attributes much of his love of cider to these sensory memories. So when Josh’s wife got him his first cider press 15 years ago, it didn’t take long before they decided to enter the profession of cider-making. They called their business Finnegan Cider, after Josh’s wife’s side of the family. Finnegan Cider uses English and French variety cider apples instead of dessert or eating apples, because they offer a high-quality flavor. But over time, finding the right apples—or enough of them—became a struggle. Josh heard about iFarm through Bull Run Cider, a cidery that found its orchard through an iFarm connection as well. Bull Run Cider’s success on iFarm inspired Josh to try the program too. Having never farmed before, Josh suddenly found himself reading stacks of academic papers on orchard-management. After a few mismatches for Ken, Josh’s enthusiasm and pragmatic approach to farming was a clear selling point. Through iFarm, Josh was able to sign a 10-year contract with Ken, which gives his orchard a chance to grow over time. Finnegan Cider, now in its third vintage, will begin to use its own apples when the new trees fruit. But for now, Josh takes the challenges of farming as they come. He has already spent innumerable hours establishing his orchard. Young trees line the land, waiting to be grafted and trellised. Josh is up for the challenge—the more hands-on experience he has, Josh explains, the more mental-notes he takes to improve next year’s harvest. A new deer fence surrounds the orchard…a big enough project to occupy a team of Joshes. But in fact (like most of the orchard) he’s tackled the project with little external help. Ken also gives him advice and assistance along the way, which Josh is grateful for. “I appreciate the way Ken has done this,” Josh said. “He’s been helpful at all stages.” Just as astounding as his physical dedication, is what Josh did before iFarm….which didn’t include farming. He grew up in the suburbs of California, with no agricultural influence but his love for the local apple orchard. Josh practiced medicine and he now works as a physician at Providence Newberg, but recently requested three consistent days off per week to spend on his orchard. Though he admits that the orchard has been more work than his research prepared him for, his excitement for the future and love for the land is inspiring. “It will probably be a learning thing,” he says as he paces along a row of leafy saplings. “I think I’ll probably just do my best.”
By Erinn Criswell Andrea and Taylor Bemis of Tumbleweed Farm sowed their first seeds in a modest parcel just over an acre and just under majestic Mt. Hood. This plot is the front yard of Patrick and Revelyn, who set their roots in the valley back in 1985. “It’s not about where you’re born that’s important…it’s about where you choose to live and call home,” explains Revelyn. The decision to nest under the protection of Mt. Hood is obvious; their view and surroundings make you forget about where you’re going or where you’ve been. Taylor grew up on Hutchins Farm back East. His interest in growing didn’t truly transpire until adulthood when he and Andrea decided to move from Bend, Oregon back to the farm in Massachusetts. After four seasons growing with Taylor’s family on 30 acres of mixed veggies and 10 acres of orchards, the couple were ready to head west once again. Familiar and fond of the Hood River Valley, they settled and began the process of starting a farm. First step, and often the most challenging, is land acquisition: enter iFarm Oregon. A tip from a staff member of Gorge Grown Food Network introduced the young couple to iFarm. The Bemis couple arranged property viewings with three different landholders, but they canceled the last two after meeting with Revelyn and Patrick. The two families reached an agreement that involved Andrea and Taylor farming the land (just over an acre) that, up until two years prior, Patrick and Revelyn had used for animal pasture. Patrick and Revelyn farmed their land for self sufficiency, and began growing vegetables two years ago to compliment her catering business. But with full time jobs, Revelyn and Patrick decided to let someone else farm the plot. It has been a joy to see the land farmed without having to bear the labor themselves. Revelyn located iFarm on an internet search. She completed the questionnaire and was contacted by Taylor and Andrea shortly thereafter. The Bemis’ were the first iFarm landseekers to visit the property in Mt. Hood, and a mutually beneficial arrangement was formed. “Without iFarm, we would not have had any other reason to connect with Andrea and Taylor,” Patrick stated. Tumbleweed Farm’s first season was a bountiful success. Intending to sell solely at the Hood River and White Salmon Farmers’ Markets, the couple found themselves distributing their produce to friends and family in Portland on a weekly basis. Tumbleweed Farm fostered a partnership with a Portland-based company whose employees are more than eager to commit to 40 shares during the 2014 growing season. It is the couple’s goal to farm full-time without the need to supplement their income with outside jobs, and it appears Andrea and Taylor are well on their way to achieving this! Within just one year, Tumbleweed Farm has outgrown itself, allowing the Bemis farmers to purchase land of their own, just down the road from Revelyn and Patrick. Taylor described iFarm Oregon as, “a good stepping stone and great way to test out farming.” Check out Tumbleweed’s Blog here.
Protecting Oregon Farms, The Register-Guard, 12/18/16
Breaking Ground With iFarm: Creative Arrangements Help Small Farmers Get Their Start, The Corvallis Advocate, 8/1/13
Making a Match Down on the Farm, The Oregonian, 10/29/09