Winter Green Farm: A New Face at the Market, an Old Hand at Organic Farming

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Winter Green Farm
by Sarah Nicholson, EDN

Driving (or biking) along Noti’s Poodle Creek Road, you feel like you’ve found one of those locations that make the Willamette Valley so special.  All of a sudden, the valley opens up and you see rows and rows of vegetable crops, a cluster of in-field greenhouses, a herd of cattle grazing in pasture, and a planting of flowers adorning the roadside.  A little white sign announces that you’ve come to Winter Green Farm, which considers itself “a productive farm creating harmony with the earth, humanity, and ourselves.” A long-time Eugene-area organic farm, Winter Green is now bringing its bounty back to Eugene’s Saturday Market/Lane County Farmer’s Market for the first time in eight years.

Started by Jack Gray and Mary Jo Wade way back in 1980, Winter Green Farm’s ownership is now shared by three families.  Wali and Jabrila Via joined in 1985, and then in 2009 Chris and Shannon Overbaugh joined after years of employment on the farm.  The farm now boasts a large crew, some who come for a season and others who stay for a decade.  At the peak of the season, when the basil is green and the crop is plentiful, the crew grows to about 25 members.

In addition to growing 10 acres of crops for Farmer’s Markets, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program produces on 9 acres.  1.5 acres of blueberries are harvested for both the market and CSA customers, 1.5 acres of fragrant green basil are grown for the farm’s new pesto business, and 2.5 acres are set aside for a wholesale burdock (gobo) crop, which has been a farm staple since 1986.  On top of that, 70 acres are in permanent pasture and another 21 in temporary pasture for the farm’s herd of beef cattle.

Spearheaded by owner Wali Via, the farm uses biodynamic methods in addition to organic methods as part of the larger belief in the farm as a living organism.  Winter Green Farm (WGF) prides itself on producing the majority of its fertility on the farm, through it’s cattle herd, extensive composting, green manure crops, and crop rotation.  As a WGF employee for three seasons, I saw first-hand how important this view of the farm as a living organism is to its owners.  For a farm as large as Winter Green, striving to get anywhere near a closed loop is quite a challenge, and it takes a lot of careful planning and decision-making to create and foster a sustainable system. Another past employee described it as “the best soil management” of any organic farm he’d seen.

Owners and Market Managers Chris and Shannon Overbaugh said that despite successful markets in Portland and Bend, Winter Green Farm came back to the Eugene market this year to increase the farm’s presence closer to home.  “We feel it’s important to be a part of our local community and to meet our sustainability goals of selling what we can produce as close to home as possible.” Part of the challenge is starting over again in a new market, especially when it comes to having a less coveted booth location.  But “besides the less than optimal spring,” the Overbaughs say the market has been going okay so far.

They note that they are “committed to the market for the future”, and would like to see a market that is “well-managed and has a focus that meets the needs of both the community and the membership.”   A spacious venue, as well as a potential covered space to host a year-round market, are a few vendor-friendly options for the market’s future.

 

To find Winter Green Farm at Eugene’s Saturday Market, walk by the main farm and producer section on 8th street to where the booths make a right turn, and you will find a big blue sign hanging above their booth, about halfway down the row on the left-hand side.  WGF’s booth is located right in front of Park St. Café, next to Field to Table Catering.  If you can’t make it to Saturday Market, Eugene also hosts a farm stand in the parking lot of Emmaus Lutheran Church on Wednesdays from 2:00 to 6:00.  For more information on any aspect of Winter Green Farm, check out their website or contact them by e-mail at: [email protected]

Photos by Winter Green Farm and Sarah Nicholson
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