Gingerich Farms was founded in 1919 and possesses a proud and splendid history. Over the years it has been worked and maintained by five consecutive generations. Verne Gingerich, the farm’s current patriarch, recalls the beginning, “My great grandpa [bought the property] and homesteaded across the street from where the farm is today. His children were the first full generation raised here.” Back then, the farm grew various crops and raised horses, chickens, cows, sheep, and pigs. In 1968, Gingerich Farms began growing Christmas trees; at that time Verne was ten years old.
Like many farmers, Verne took time away from the farm to gain experience in a different field. After two years, he was genuinely looking forward to returning. “When I did come back, I wanted to raise things that I could eat,” explained Verne, “blueberries came along which was a good choice.” It was a change that has remained in place ever since.
Two of Verne’s grown children, Tristan and Theran, are currently working on the farm. Like their father, both Tristan and Theran took time away to focus on their studies and other interests. When asked what brought him back, Tristan said, “I originally went to school thinking I was not coming back to the farm. Then, I started a family.” Tristan graduated with an undergraduate degree in biology from Westmont College and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries resources from West Virginia University. “I got married, then had a son, and was going to be on the road a lot. I didn’t want to be traveling all the time. I started exploring my options and remembered Dad had always said that the farm was an option if I ever wanted to come back.” Theran on the other hand never wanted to leave. “Growing up, I always wanted to farm,” he remembers, “Watching the freedom that the guys had out in the field looked great. I never wanted to go to school, I’d much rather be outside all the time.” Theran graduated with a degree in business management with an accounting minor from his time at both George Fox and Whitworth University; then officially made his return to Gingerich Farms in 2013.
As the years flew by Verne, Tristan, and Theran each found their niche within the farm’s operations. “I have always enjoyed trying to figure out how to process and sell the crop,” said Verne. Tristan enjoys working on a little bit of everything, “I currently run blueberry packing, hazelnut washing and drying, and business administration,” he said with a spark of pride in his voice. Theran, on the other hand, took a contrasting approach, “I am in the fields. I manage the land alongside the shop and equipment repairs. Anything that’s tied to the fields I try and oversee.” Together, beside Gingerich Farm’s permanent and seasonal teams, they manage daily duties with devotion, graceful leadership, and constant improvement.
Being among the crops day in and day out has its perks. They’ve each discovered a unique, favorite place around the farm to enjoy themselves and relax. Tristan appreciates spending time atop the nut tower, “It’s very tall and you get a beautiful view of the whole farm.” Verne gets a charge out of taking naps in the hazelnuts around lunchtime. “I’ll just park in the middle and take a nap, it’s cool in there,” he said. Theran traveled back through his memories, recalling something special, “There’s a far back corner that has black walnut trees and a creek that runs through; it’s usually flowing and I like it back there,” he remembered.
When they’re not farming, each member of the Gingerich family focuses on their individual hobbies. Tristan can be found birding alongside his wife and their kids. Ask the kids to identify a bird and they probably can! Tristan describes his family’s free time as something that follows a simple motto, “Your kids’ hobbies become your hobbies. At least in my house.” A sentiment most parents can attest to. Verne enjoys keeping busy with plenty of weekend travel and fair weather motorcycle riding through the beautiful Oregon landscape.
A lot has changed over the years. From 2006-2007, Gingerich Farms took its first steps toward organic farming and became committed to environmental stewardship. “We went through a period of environmental consciousness, did a bunch of old blackberry removal and replaced them with native plants. We then planted our organic field and put up bird boxes to try and get some Raptors in,” Tristan explained. Gingerich Farms was the first blueberry grower in the Willamette Valley to use a falconer as a form of bird control, after being approached by a falconer working with grape growers. “We brought in a falconer at that time which started multiple long contracts,” Tristan remembered.
Today, Gingerich Farms focuses on growing hazelnuts, blueberries, and seed crops while managing roughly 1,200 acres of land. “Seed crops were here when I was born,” Verne explained, “grass seed, clover seed, anything for seed.” According to Tristan, part of the job is continually thinking of the future, “There’s always better equipment. You’re constantly changing to better technology.” Gingerich Farms is also quite involved locally and is well known for opening their doors to the public a few times each year. Offering frozen blueberries at wholesale cost to their neighbors within the community.
At the end of the day, “The philosophy is to raise a sustainable crop with the least amount of inputs, and to provide the best product possible,” Verne said with an air of earned delight. Theran agreed, expanding on the Gingerich Farms ideology and the importance of “Producing a quality product with the least amount of inputs and the smallest environmental impact.”
Verne explains that Gingerich Farms has always followed a special piece of advice, “My uncle once told me it takes three things to have a great season. You’ve got to have a good crop, good harvest conditions, and good pricing,” he continued, “You’ll always have one, and most of the time you get two, but very seldom do you experience all three.” The Gingerich family has big plans for the future, including one goal of maximizing performance across the entire farm. “Right now, we’re making decisions that are very much setting up the future to what it’s going to be,” Tristan said. In addition to being an established grower, the Gingerich family plays a vital role as a packing partner for Homegrown Organic Farms’ blueberry program, in which Gingerich Farms has already helped maximize and improve blueberry season activities.
Through the years and across generations, Gingerich Farms has accomplished something bigger than it would seem on the surface. Not only are they gifted in the art of growing organic blueberries and hazelnuts, they also wash and prepare hazelnuts for surrounding farms and are generous within their community. The Gingerich family has shown their dedication to raising great produce, farming in a way that maintains the utmost respect for nature and the environment, and finally, have become a pillar of knowledge and leadership in their (many beautiful) fields.
Visit Gingerich Farms online for more information, and to learn about their vibrant history, philosophy for organics and sustainability, and to learn more about their blueberry, hazelnut, and seed crop harvests.