This month, TEC made a visit out to Windflower Farm, a beautiful 20-acre farm located just 15 miles east of Bend. Windflower Farm is dedicated to growing gourmet-quality vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers. It’s also home to Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) livestock, including laying hens, dairy goats and heritage pigs.
The farm has been a Green Spot for many years. In fact, they use The Environmental Center as their central drop-off location for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares! We already knew that the farm, owned and managed by Gigi Meyer, practices sustainable farming methods: no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. But we wanted to take a tour of the property and learn a little more about Gigi, Windflower Farm, and what they offer the Central Oregon community.
Gigi has loved and felt connected to nature all of her life. When she started the farm in 2005, she really wanted to foster biodiversity on her land. This is evident in several ways. For example, the animals provide compost for growing healthy fruits and vegetables, and she uses goats to help control weeds. In 2009, Gigi acquired even more land next door – her father’s property – what she now calls the “North Farm.” She has been working more than 10 years to continually improve her soil, select the right seeds, and plant at just the right time. All of this careful calculation means she doesn’t need to use any amount of toxic chemicals. Plus she’s found that crop rotation and cover cropping help ensure a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.
Gigi and I walked the entire farm, which was the highlight of my week! She pointed out all sorts of delicious food including grapes and ‘dragon tongue’ beans; showed me beautiful floral arrangements on the way to Jackson’s Corner and Newport Market; and introduced me to her goats, chickens, horses and pigs. Along the way she would stop to water down compost piles, chat with her interns about that day’s harvest, and feed the pigs, who were digging up turnips and playing in the mud. I learned about companion planting, where plants are strategically placed together to help one another thrive (like marigolds and tomatoes). And we also saw several pollinators like giant bumblebees, enjoying all the colorful flowers interspersed throughout the land. It was really evident that everything on the farm was a piece of a larger system that worked together in harmony!
One of my first thoughts was that managing 20 acres is no easy task. I learned that Gigi works with Rogue Farm Corps to employ a few interns each growing season. In order to make sure this is a successful partnership, Gigi provides them with housing on the farm – a large house next to her own home, where each intern is in close proximity to work and other personal projects. (For example, one intern is currently raising ducks on the land!) Gigi also teaches an animal husbandry class for Rogue Farm Corps. I was really impressed with her dedication to passing on her knowledge to others.
“I want to be involved with and encourage the next generation of sustainable farming,” she said.
Gigi acknowledged that farming in the high desert has its challenges. However, she has invested a lot of time to find the best watering solutions for her needs while conserving as much as possible. She uses a combination of drip and overhead sprinklers, which either run super early at 4am or during overnight hours. Gigi is also dedicated to producing as little food waste as possible, and manages inventory so that they almost always sell out of product to regular clients and CSA. Some of her regular clients include Pronghorn Resort, Brasada Ranch, Central Oregon Locavore and Agricultural Connections.
What Gigi has created is a great regional model for small-scale, biodiverse, farm-to-table agriculture. Windflower Farm gives locals the opportunity to participate in community supported agriculture, which helps to maintain socially responsible, environmentally friendly acreage right here in our own backyard. Plus, the farm contributes to the health of our community and provides meaningful employment for several of our fellow community members.
If you’re interested in supporting Windflower Farms while enjoying many organic foods, you can sign up for a full season or on-demand tote bag with fruits, veggies and herbs. Or, check out their raw milk herd share, egg CSA, and flower CSA. You can read more and sign up for these offerings at the Windflower Farm website. I also highly recommend that you keep Windflower Farm in mind for your upcoming special event or wedding! The floral arrangements I saw were AMAZING, and the flower bouquets dropped off here at The Environmental Center are extremely beautiful.
Thanks to Gigi for showing me around the farm! Here are a few photos from the tour that day.