Minto Island Growers Seek Balance As Their Farm Expands, Part 1


The following profile has been excerpted from Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement.

The scene when we pulled up to the Minto Island Growers’ farm stand was one of happy activity. A food cart was prepping meals, several picnic tables were filled with diners, a couple of farm hands were planting and watering flower starts, and a cashier was adding up the total for a woman buying vegetables. I was convinced we had arrived at a successful farm, because there was simply too much going on for it not to be so.

Chris Jenkins and Elizabeth Miller are the farmers making all this activity possible. They’ve been farming for seven years now, and they’ve jumped wholeheartedly into virtually every opportunity that’s come their way. In fact, there’s so much going on that I wonder how they manage to get it all done… and whether the workload has any impact on their outlook.

When asked, both express confidence they’ll be doing this work for the rest of their lives, and when they take the time to think about it, they’re pretty sure they still love it. But they are tired. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Seven years of running as fast as they can to take advantage of every door that opened has taken a toll. And now, as we sit at a small wooden table in the corner of a metal warehouse large enough to park a few trucks in, they almost seem relieved to have a reason to sit down and reflect for awhile.

When they got started as Minto Island Growers back in 2008, they were carrying the ideas and ideals they had developed during some fairly radical ecology and economic studies abroad coupled with a one-season internship at a free-thinking California farm. But it’s not like they were coming into this adventure blind. Elizabeth grew up on this farm, and in her mind, she had never really left. She came back most summers during college to help out her dad, who specialized in native plants, traditional poplar breeding, and mint leaf production. In a sense, Elizabeth’s path to having her own farm was more like taking a sabbatical for a couple of years, during which she found her own style and developed a context for agriculture that came from the world beyond her father’s farm.

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