This summer, we’re carrying transplants from Winona Farms in SW Portland. Here’s a brief history of this small nursery, written by owner and farmer Zach Hinkelman:
I grew up in Idaho on a pig farm. My grandfather had a small herd of cattle, but also a good deal of land he grew mostly wheat and barley on. I was in the fields driving truck at age 13 and I’ve only missed one harvest season since in 25 years. Before I left for college, I was always starting a garden. I grew mostly corn, potatoes, and beans. Anything that would survive in a short growing season (and hopefully avoiding a depressing July freeze.)
After high school, I came out to Oregon to attend Linfield College. Though I continued to help with the harvest in summer, my gardening persona dove into a long dormant period. My 20′s were marked with a search towards anything and everything I found interesting. Music, teaching, and running all came into my life at that point, but gardening wasn’t much of reality due to living situations and a transient lifestyle.
Then, in my early 30′s, I found a little house I could rent that had a small yard. It dawned on me that I could maybe plant some corn and beans once again. Suddenly, I was rushed back to my youth, remembering pouring over the Gurney’s seed catalog each winter. I immediately went online and requested a free copy, and before I knew it, I was ordering seeds for myself. Out of nowhere, I was a farmer once again.
The first garden in Portland was such a blast. Even though I only had a few things, I began to learn about how different the climate is here compared to the higher elevations of Idaho. I could grow tomatoes, peppers, and basil! The 20 square feet became 100 square feet the following spring. I was growing fresh herbs for the kitchen and trying things like canteloupe that had seemed impossible to even try before.
A few years later, I met my wife and we bought a house with a large south-facing backyard. I was in heaven! I ramped up my efforts and began ordering a number of heirloom tomato and peppers seeds. On a lark, I thought I would sell my extras on Craigslist. I was surprised that I sold as many as I did. Of course, I thought I could sell more! And the rest is history. I now sell to nurseries around town, farmers markets, and have carts up at local stores.
I came into contact with the Neighborhood House in 2012 with my involvement with the West Portland United Methodist Church Community Garden. I tended to a couple plots where the produce all went to the NH. It was a marvelous opportunity for me, because it gave me a lot of extra space to garden in a sunny location but also with the benefit of feeding people that are in need of meals. Growing healthy produce for families that need it most is a tremendously rewarding experience. I love supporting this community!
In 2013, I’ve taken on the responsibility to be the volunteer garden coordinator, working alongside Kelly Owen. I’ll be in charge of planning, planting, tending, harvesting, replanting, and reharvesting crops from the NH raised beds and the WPUMP community garden plots. I’m honored to be even more a part of this wonderful engine and I look forward to maximizing the garden to it’s most bountiful harvest ever.