Getting to Know the Farmers at Winter Green Farm, Part 2

| 1/8/2015 10:15:00 AM

My new book, Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement, spotlights 18 Oregon farms and farm supporters who are committed to a return to ecologically sound agricultural practices. This group reflects the diversity of people, both young and old, who are reshaping our state’s food system and reclaiming our right to eat well. In their stories you will hear how they came to be where they are, learn something about the challenges they face, and share their happiness at the successes they’ve enjoyed thus far. The following profile, which has been excerpted from Planting A Future, features one of Oregon’s oldest and most successful biodynamic farms. Read Getting to Know the Farmers at Winter Green Farm, Part 1.

Cattle relaxing at Winter Green Farm

“We were really naive about how to make it all work,” said Jack Gray. “We were pretty grounded in the environmental movement and we had a lot of things in our head. But within a couple of years we got rid of the draft horses. When we looked at the prospect of becoming a viable farm and actually making some money, we realized we had to do something different. As we looked around, we noticed that a new environmentally friendly, alternative form of agriculture was just starting to bud a little bit, so we tried to get involved with that.”

So they began attending the early organizing meetings of Willamette Valley Tilth (which would evolve to become Oregon Tilth). They also participated with another local effort called the Organically Grown Co-op (now Organically Grown Company) which was in the process of kicking off. As they ventured out, what they discovered was that many things involved with food and agriculture were starting to change. Diverse activity everywhere. So many possibilities.

Which brings us back to that meeting with Wali and Jabrila Via. Two couples, both convinced they could accomplish more by working together with someone else than they could do alone. There was no intention to do a deal when they all sat down. They were just two families getting together to share ideas and maybe ask for a little advice.

Wali recalls, “We just came over to talk to them and after awhile they asked if we would consider working here, and we thought that sounded like a good opportunity so we said okay. Then we worked here and we did a contract with them that first year for vegetable starts. That’s my recollection of it, and that was 1985.”

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