ADDRESS: 38001 Alexander Rd, Philomath, OR
OWNERS: Beth Hoinacki and Adam Ryan
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 10
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 3 part-time seasonal; 8-10 berry pickers
WHAT THEY SELL: Blueberries and a large selection of farm produce
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For fresh, delicious fruit and vegetables, grown as sustainably as possible.
If you’re a “regular” at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market or the Winter Indoor Market, you can attest to the colorful array of farm-fresh produce on display at the Goodfoot Farm stand. Not only are the offerings beautiful, they’re also delicious and grown with the utmost care. As the only Demeter-Certified Biodynamic® market farm in the Corvallis area, Goodfoot Farm is committed to balancing food production with responsibility for our local forest, field and river life and with the health of our planet. Owners Beth Hoinacki and Adam Ryan work hard to minimize their use of fossil fuels and off-farm inputs, practicing a method of agriculture that strives to emulate a natural system.
Beth, when and why did you decide to start your business? In 1999 we bought our property in Kings Valley on the slope of a hill on the west bank of the Luckiamute River with 1.5 acres of young blueberries. For the next few years I was busy with my botany and plant pathology graduate work, we started a family, and we worked on building farm infrastructure. Adam maintained an off-farm job to provide for us all. In 2005, we officially registered the farm name and started selling berries to First Alternative Co-op. In 2009 we added fall storage crops and marketed directly to individuals, in addition to selling at the Co-op. In 2012 we diversified the number of crops, extended our production season, and added farmers’ markets to our sales strategy. By 2013 we were able to add our own unique brand of CSA [community supported agriculture] by developing our “FarmFriend” program in which members pay up front for produce picked up at the market over the season. Removing the money transaction from the exchange of food at the market makes the market place interactions much more meaningful and fun for me.
Tell us more about your products/services. What are your specialties? We grow and sell blueberries, root crops, and a little bit of everything. The variety keeps me interested. Every new season brings a second chance to make change, improvements, or try something new. I love planning our fields for double, sometimes triple, crops, and for cover crops.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? Just having the Local Business of the Week program means that we live in a community that recognizes and appreciates local products and services. We feel fortunate to live in a community where we are able to do what we love and have a market for it. The Business of the Week program certainly promotes that, and we feel lucky to be interviewed.
Do you fill an unusual niche? What does your business do better than anyone else? We are the only certified Biodynamic market farm in the Corvallis area. Biodynamic, as an agricultural method, goes farthest in terms of sustainability. Biodynamic offers the clearest way to maximize the potential of a farm to produce in a sustainable fashion.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner, and how have you met those challenges? Having to do bookkeeping and become an employer while keeping up with the farming challenges me. Aside from developing those two sets of skills, I also have been challenged by the issue of health care benefits – both being able to afford for our family and being able to provide for our workers. Solutions for me are having the self-discipline to learn the laws and develop the skills that I might not be inclined to pursue otherwise. But they are part of running a business well. My husband, Adam, maintains an off-farm job for our family’s benefits and for financial security. This has really helped balance the risks of starting a new business.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? Supporting local business has a fundamental influence on how people feel connected. Doing business locally makes the exchange of services and goods more meaningful. I would say it looks like a strong future for local business.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? What excites or inspires you, makes you keep changing, improving? Getting to know my customers! I am a market farmer, and I get inspired through the exchange of food interactions with customers; it is much more meaningful to have the exchange in person.
What is your relationship to the community? What organizations do you support or participate in? As a farm business, I support the local food banks, I partner with First Alternative Co-op, and I work part-time with Stellar Certification Services and Demeter Association. As an individual, I am a board member for the Kings Valley Charter School, I collaborate with OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems, and I am a member of the Willamette Women’s Farm Network. My husband is the volunteer fire chief for Hoskins/Kings Valley RFPD. Goodfoot Farm is also a partner in the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition.
How many people do you employ, and what are the benefits of working on a small farm? I hire 3 part-time seasonal workers for the vegetable production and 8 to 10 berry pickers for the 4-week picking season. The berry picking provides jobs for young kids who otherwise would not have an opportunity for work experience. Part of our mission is to provide young people employment. Being on a small farm crew allows each person to realize their importance. They gain a sense of responsibility to show up and to be present at work. I depend on each one! For the vegetable production farmhand, they gain experience in all aspects of the farm process. They learn that doing one job well makes the next job easier, and they start to learn accountability. They learn that I am dependent on them, and they work in a setting where they grow to appreciate how their work is connected to the greater community. Gaining employment experience as a young person develops responsibility, ability to work independently, solve problems and engage in the work.
How important is sustainability to you and your business, and what steps have you taken to be more sustainable? What is sustainability? It’s a balancing act. I believe the first principle of sustainability is to keep the business in business. Next we work to reduce dependence on non-renewable resources; that means we try to decrease our off-farm inputs (fuel, fertility, pesticides) and look at the farm as a systems operation. We integrate grazing animals to mow grass and convert that grass into fertility, and a diverse flock of fowl to control bugs and eat weeds. Making compost with the animal manures and plant waste provides fertilizer. We use flowers for their aesthetic appeal and to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects that protect our crops. We collect the sun’s energy to operate the electric fencing.
Farming is a lifestyle choice as much as anything. Priorities start to shift when you begin to balance the farm with family, with community, with the world. Our slogan is, “Farming with head, hands and heart.” With our head, we learn and plan for what we need to do as farmers. With our hands, we put our knowledge into action and bend to the limitations of what can actually get done. With our heart, we consider how we feel about the farm work: prioritizing for family happiness, healthy relationships, and manageable levels of stress. It’s a balancing act!
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. We love to grow food with head, hands, and heart.
(Interview and article by Diane Arney – November 1, 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).