ADDRESS: 25159 Grange Hall Rd, Philomath, OR
OWNERS: John Eveland and Sally Brewer
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 25
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 100+ during the peak of the growing season
WHAT THEY SELL: Fresh organic produce and seasonal food inspired by the best French and Italian traditions
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Whether you’re stopping by the Gathering Together Farm booth at the local farmers’ market, signing up for a weekly CSA box, or visiting the Gathering Together Farm restaurant and produce stand, you’re sure to find some of the most beautiful and delicious produce grown in the Willamette Valley.
Enjoying a cup of coffee, pastry, or other savory delight while sitting in the outside dining area of Gathering Together Farm, with the recently upgraded sliding panel windows to improve your view of the surroundings, will beat many other dining experiences in Benton County. You are surrounded by beautiful produce as well as fragrant flowers, herbs, local wines and spreads. It truly is one of our local treasures.
John, when and why did you decide to start your business? Nearly Normal’s Restaurant was in business and quite popular with local organic dining enthusiasts. [John was one of the original owners of Nearly Normal’s.] We were ordering our organic produce from different farms. Shortly after we received one too many poor quality items we decided to do what we had already felt we should do, grow our own organic produce to supply to the restaurant. It seemed to us a natural evolution.
Could you tell us more about your products/services? Specialties and favorites? We sell organic, locally grown produce at farmers’ markets around the state of Oregon. As Gathering Together Farm got better, we were able to start offering more. Several years ago, we began the CSA program which is Community Supported Agriculture where you buy into the program at the beginning of the year, and we provide you with enough produce to support you and your family. We also sell produce to restaurants. We have a joint seed business with Frank and Karen Morton (www.WildGardenSeed.com) who had been focusing on a salad variety mix selling to 4-star restaurants. Everything kept pushing us toward diversity.
Regarding specialties and favorites, I believe we are most well known for our mesculin salad mix which sells all around the United States. My personal favorite is turnips, they are so easy to grow and sell very well, and are quite delicious.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It is nice to know that what we do is appreciated. We are grateful for the opportunity to be interactive with our community.
How many people do you employ? We have well over 100 employees during the summer months in the fields, working the farmer’s markets, at the restaurant, and at the packing shed. Most of them are working more than full-time as well. There is a lot going on on these sixty acres.
In the economic downturn of 2008, we felt a responsibility to our employees—the restaurant workers and our field workers. We found them as much work as possible. The impact on Philomath and the area was hit hard. It felt good to be able to add to the quality of life in the community.
What challenges do you face as a local independent business owner? For us as farmers, weather is the biggest challenge. Flooding! Our workers have acquired a lot of knowledge, what I call brain trust. Most of them have been working for us for a very long time and know what it takes to make things grow and what works during difficult times, so in that respect we feel pretty fortunate.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? Sally and I are practical people. For successful farming, compromise is necessary. We compost, have a solar collector, we wish we had more efficient vehicles so we maximize our trips to make our effort more sustainable.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business? Feeling like I am making a positive contribution to our community, adding to the quality of life for those we deal with. I like being the boss because it gives me freedom to create the type of company environment people thrive to work in.
What charities do your support and participate in? We give about $20,000 worth of food a year to various gleaning groups in the area. We provide an endless amount of produce and gift certificates to non-profits in the community.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. We want to be known as the farm of the most dedicated, hard-working team of individuals providing vibrant, healthy and luscious tasting vegetables to our customers.
(Interview and article by Debra Hascall – April 27, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).