Slow Flowers Road Trip to Oregon
July 15th, 2016
You know you’ve got it bad when every vacation involves a visit to a flower farm, right?
That’s exactly how I rationalized our 4-day trip to travel from Seattle to Eugene, Oregon, in order to take in the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials at University of Oregon’s Hayward Field last weekend. I’m married to a track fanatic. The track fanatic is married to a flower fanatic. See how that works?
Luckily, my husband Bruce Brooks is super indulgent of my passions and I like to think I’m relatively indulgent of his. Sitting on a thin piece of foam on wood bleachers for three days is a small price to pay in order to experience the thrill of watching world-class athletes compete and break speed and distance/height records. It really was fun.
But so were the “side trips,” and that’s the purpose of today’s installation of “Slow Flowers Road Trip.”
Last Thursday, while Bruce worked in his company’s Portland office, I headed to Rickreall, Oregon, a hamlet west of Salem, the state capitol.
I’ve been wanting to see Crowley House Flower Farm & Studio where Beth and Jason Syphers are creating a very special family business.
The Syphers are active in the emerging PNW Cut Flower Growers group and I’m so happy they are part of Slowflowers.com.
I’m not going to share all their background, because I recorded a Slow Flowers Podcast interview with Beth (including a cameo appearance by Jason), which you’ll hear later this summer.
But I will explain that they live, farm and work at a magical place in the country, at the heart of which is a late 19th century farmhouse.
Enjoy a few fun photos here with more to come!
As it was Thursday, I followed Beth over to the McMinnville Farmers’ Market, about 10 miles away.
That’s where she sells flowers to the public each week. Beth doesn’t bring straight bunches to the Market; she’s known for her inventive and unique bouquets that range in price from $4 for a sweet pea posy to $15 for a larger bouquet. Great Prices! I hope those McMinnvillites realize how special these locally-grown flowers really are.
At the Market, we also met up with Beth Satterwhite and Erik Grimstad of Even Pull Farm. Based in McMinnville, the couple grows produce and cut flowers, runs a CSA and sells at the local farmers market. Even Pull is a Slowflowers.com member and I’ve been wanting to learn more about them. It was a nice introduction and we snapped a few photos, which you can see here. I’m looking forward to future visits, with Even Pull, but for now, I’m happily following their beautiful Instagram feed.
Beth and Erik took me over to meet Eric Bacon of 4-T Acres, Ltd., which is associated with McMinnville’s Farmer John’s Produce & Nursery.
As Eric explained it, his 5th generation farming family recently expanded their flower acreage due to absorbing another flower farm. This business is only recently on my radar; in fact just a few weeks ago when I went to the American Flowers Week Celebration at the Oregon Flower Growers Association in Portland, I noticed 4-T Acres’ stall there. By the time I stopped by, Eric had taken off (these flower farmers keep much earlier hours than I do!). So the unexpected introduction to Eric and his family was a nice surprise. You can follow them on Instagram here.
By Saturday morning we were settled at the home of our generous Eugene friends, recalling the great track events we’d watched the afternoon before. But since I had a few free hours, I headed over to Charles Little & Co., just 6 miles east of downtown Eugene, to say hello and visit Bethany and Charles.
These two are great flower farmers and ever since we met in 2010 we’ve had a lot of exchanges that have left me with an even deeper appreciation for the wisdom that Charles and Bethany bring to their farming practices. Click here to listen to my Podcast interview with Charles and check out photos of their farm in the corresponding blog post.
Charles Little & Co.’s flowers, foliage, branches and other botanical goodies can be found year-round at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market and the Oregon Flower Growers Association/Portland Flower Market. You can follow their Instagram feed here.
Bethany sent me home with one dozen farm-fresh eggs and some beautiful flowers (unripe raspberries on the branch, delphinium stems, a cluster of chocolate cosmos and some purple-flowering nepeta). I wish I had taken a photo but you can see her holding those flowers in the photo above. Flowers and eggs came home with us to be enjoyed all week.
After the meet ended Sunday evening we took off for points north to the town of Philomath, Oregon. That’s where Aaron Gaskey and Erin McMullin live and grow flowers at Rain Drop Farm. They, too, are past guests of this podcast (listen here), but I hadn’t seen their farm. You can follow them on Instagram here.
WOW. That’s all I can say. Rain Drop Farm is nestled at the base of the eastern slope of the Coastal Mountain Range (the Pacific Ocean and Oregon’s beaches are on the other side).
Imagine farming in clearings created by logging so that the flower fields are surrounded by tall Douglas firs, Western red cedars and other conifers. Impressive!
Aaron and Erin had also included in our dinner party Crowley House’s Beth and Jason Syphers and Tony and Denise Gaetz of nearby Bare Mountain Farm, also Slowflowers.com members. [By the way, follow Bare Mtn. Farm’s Instagram feed here.]
Aaron and Erin took us on a walking tour of their upper farm — fields of dahlias and annuals, plus two greenhouses. You can see some of those photos here.
And after a delicious dinner of local delicacies, salmon and wine, but just before sunset, we all jumped in cars and drove down the hill to the land Rain Drop Farms leases from their Christmas tree-grower neighbors. More beautiful and healthy rows of mostly annual crops thrive here.
Visiting has given me a glimpse of Rain Drop’s capacity to supply Northwest flowers to Northwest consumers in Portland, Seattle and beyond. The farm is a new member of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market and recently opened a stall at the Oregon Flower Growers Association/Portland Flower Market.
To me, this Road Trip offers a snapshot of the versatility and talents that can be found, not just in the PNW but across the U.S. I’m delighted to introduce you to some of the talented people who are part of the Slow Flowers Community.