Jim & Debbie Fields, Fields Farm
The Farm: 10 acres in Southeast suburban Bend
What They Seed:
organically grown vegetables in 10 acres of fields – use high/low tunnels and crop row covers to extend Bend’s short growing season – pesticide free – soil building methods
Where You Can Find Them:
Farmers Markets: Bend Farmers Market (Wednesday) – pre-purchase Farm Bucks that are redeemable for produce at a discounted rate at the Farmers Market throughout the season
Retail: Central Oregon Locavore
CSA: Full or Small Shares, Farm to Work Shares
On the Farm: Farm Stand
Jim and Debbie Fields purchased 10 acres of farmland just southeast of Bend in 1989. Neither Debbie nor Jim had a farming background, but they wanted to raise their 3 adopted daughters on a farm and embrace the lifestyle of growing food for themselves and their community. Upon purchasing the farm, Jim took an Oregon State University Extension Master Gardening class and began reading all about organically growing vegetables. One of his favorite books was Eliot Coleman’s on farming in cool climates, very applicable considering Bend’s 90 day growing season and the possibility of frost in any month of the year.
Jim was a stay-at-the-farm dad and Debbie worked off the farm as a public health nurse. They started selling CSA shares the first year and had 8 members, whom were Debbie’s coworkers. Over the years their main focus has always been the CSA program, which has over 60 members for the 2014 season. Using high tunnels, low tunnels and row covers they can protect against possible frost and extend the growing season to create a 28 week CSA.
For many years they were certified organic by Oregon Tilth and though they no longer are, Fields Farm still doesn’t use any pesticides and they put a lot of effort into building the soil using horse manure, spent hops from a nearby brewery and even seed meal from a local herbalist.
Most of the farm labor is done by Jim and Debbie, though during the busy season that have about 40 hours/week of paid farm workers. Neighboring family is also a big help on the farm, especially on harvest days. Since there is no refrigeration on the farm for the produce almost everything needs to be harvested day-of for the CSA and farmers market.
A 5kW solar panel array off-sets the power needed to run a small pump for overhead irrigation of the fields and greenhouses. The pond and creek on the property is fed by irrigation canals from the Deschutes River. There is only 10-12 inches of rain per year in the high desert Bend area.
The landscape beyond the Fields Farm fields has drastically changed since 1989: they are now surrounded by housing developments. Despite multiple offers to sell the property for development, Jim and Debbie have preserved the farm as it is and plan on keeping it that way. They are considering putting the land into a trust and selling a small portion to the city to build a park. Eventually they would love to see the university create an agroecology program at the farm so that it can be a tool for teaching future farmers.
Advice to New Farmers:
“It’s easier to grow things than it is to sell things” – It’s important to develop sales outlets for your product
“Educate, educate, educate”
“Nature is smarter than me”
“Force yourself to do things you don’t know how to do”
“The real reason we’re doing these things is because it’s valuable”
“Do the science”