The Bus had the opportunity to stay at Gales Meadow Farm because of Maya’s connection to Lucy, a friend from high school who just graduated and is working at the farm full time. While doing events in the Portland area over the past three days, we spent three nights at the farm, which is located 45 minutes outside of the city in Forest Grove. The farm is on a small plot of flat agriculture land tucked up against a wooded hillside. It has a peaceful and practical air that often seems to accompany hard work and stewardship for the land. Chickens wander through the yard and you can’t always tell where wildflower meadows end and planted rows begin – but there are barns full of drying garlic and produce orders being filled every day.
We spent our last day in the area working at the farm. We prepared beds and planted starters of different kale and collard green varieties. Anne Berblinger gave us a tour and directed our work, just as she manages her farm. “Prepare these beds – here’s how. Bring out the drip tape, check it for holes. Plant the starters – here’s how. These are the varieties and this is where they come from…” She told us who grows the seeds and who buys the plants, how she manages pests without insecticides, and where their water comes from. We learned about planting cucumber vines to attract cucumber beetles away from other crops, and how Anne believes that aroma and taste are a result of stress hormones. She told us there are 30 varieties of garlic grown on Gales Meadow Farm, each with unique properties and taste.
Her thorough knowledge of farming practices was impressive considering a relatively short career, and it explained the young people who kept coming to work for the farm. Anne and her husband René began farming on just one acre when they started Gales Meadow in 1999, after long careers in other fields. A young friend asked to come work for them, and then others, and today they have five full-time employees and farm seven acres. I was inspired to see that young people are eager to get farming experience, and excited to hear that three of their former employees have since gone on to start their own farms.
It was a hot day and we worked hard. Anne made us a delicious lunch and we swam in a nearby stream and picked blackberries. It was nice to be able to give something back to hosts who had shown us such hospitality, and I’m pretty sure the treatment we received wasn’t unusual. Anne and René’s home was treated like common property, with current and former employees popping in and out regularly, and everyone showing respect and appreciation for their generosity. We need more small, organic farmers, and the Berblingers are doing a great job of sustaining themselves and inspiring others with the work that they do.
Check out our blog posts on Farmplate for a more Garlic-y take on the day!