ADDRESS: 29204 Lakeside Dr, Corvallis, OR
FACEBOOK: Fairfield Farm
OWNER: Alice Fairfield
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 8
WHAT SHE SELLS: Certified organic u-pick strawberries – also, garlic, winter squash, and frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and strawberries)
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For sweet and delicious organically grown strawberries and other produce
Alice Fairfield nurtures both the earth she works and the people she serves with care and enthusiasm. A relative newcomer to farming, Alice clearly enjoys having people out to her farm. She has created a warm, welcoming, and beautiful environment for the u-pickers who venture out to the country to participate in the harvesting of sweet, delicious strawberries. As one of her happy customers exclaimed, “This is the closest I’ll get to southern France!”
Alice, when and why did you decide to start your business? I have owned this beautiful piece of land for 19 years. As a single mom raising an involved high school student, I was desperate to match my work schedule with meeting her needs. I took a long, hard look at my skills and assets and found this farm to be my biggest asset, and that working it would allow me the flexibility I needed to support my daughter. In 2007, I achieved organic certification and started commercial farming.
Tell us more about your products? What are your specialties? Organic strawberries are my mainstay. I believe I offer the only certified organic u-pick strawberries in our area. I love my u-pickers! They are a lovely bunch of people who enjoy visiting the farm and value organic u-pick opportunities. I also grow organic blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, winter squash and garlic. I produce hay in the back field for my animals and for sale.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? I notice the Business of the Week articles, and I love them! The Sustainability Coalition is doing very important work, leading us as a community to a healthy local economy for the future. Their dedication to supporting local farmers and other businesses leads the way for Corvallis as a community to prioritize buying from local farmers, and in turn building a safety net for future local food needs.
Do you fill an unusual niche? Why should folks patronize your business? The aesthetics here are special. When I first bought the property, I planted a large variety of trees. The Locust trees are some of my favorites—the way the leaves in the canopy play in the light. People notice the beauty here, and they enjoy themselves. My customers are appreciative of the whole experience. In-town folks love an excuse to come out into the country and take time in nature. One of the best compliments I have had is when a patron said to me, “This is the closest I’ll get to southern France!” I realize that I’d rather have a pretty place than a highly lucrative farm.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner, and how have you met those challenges? I didn’t have the knowledge and experience that a farmer has from growing up on a farm. I feel like I have learned everything the hard way. The extension office and the resources through the OSU Small Farms Program have been very helpful, also the women’s farming group and my kind and generous neighbors. The biggest challenge for me is being solo. Doing the farming plus doing all the business end is very challenging. Records for Oregon Tilth certification, social media, taxes, bookkeeping take up nearly as much time as doing the farming. I am always looking to improve efficiency, always trying to progress. The OSU Small Farms Assessment was helpful in identifying priorities for future success.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? The Sustainability Coalition puts local business front and center. They promote local business year after year. Corvallis as a community has demonstrated we are informed enough to choose local and invest in a healthy local economy. There may be factors in the future that will bring the value of this groundwork into the spotlight.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? What excites or inspires you? Corvallis is an amazing community! I love my u-pickers. The appreciation being expressed by the people who come here is most rewarding.
What is your relationship to the community? What organizations do you participate in? Sometimes, especially during the summer, I feel like a foreigner when I go in to town, as I rarely get off of the farm. In the winter, I do have time to work in town and would love to be part of more of the wonderful local organizations contributing to our community. At this point, I am a member of the Sustainability Coalition and the First Alternative Food Co-op. I love the Co-op! They are so supportive of local farmers! I also try to volunteer with a feral cat program in my area. For the past 10 years, I have worked with the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District on the native plant sale. I participate in the Willamette Women’s Farmer Network.
How many people do you employ? Do you think your employees are better off working for a local independent? I hire seasonal workers. I pay a fair rate and allow them to take produce home to their families. I appreciate the Latino work force; they are hard workers and often under-appreciated.
How important is sustainability to you? Have you taken steps to save energy, reduce your use of other resources, decrease your carbon footprint, reduce waste, etc.? I always try to give more back to the land than I take through cover crops, compost, compost tea, and by building wildlife habitat. I look forward to developing a solar irrigation system that is not dependent on the utility service.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. Please support local farms—it will pay off in the long run!
(Interview and article by Diane Arney – August 9, 2015)
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).