Seeders: Elizabeth Miller & Chris Jenkins, Minto Island Growers
The Farm: Diversified farm & nursery in South Salem – Farm has been in the family since the 1970’s – On-farm stand and food cart – U-pick blueberries – the only Tea farm in Oregon
What They Seed: Certified organic produce & plants for CSA, wholesale and market
Elizabeth Jenkins grew up on her family’s farm, Mt Jefferson Farm in South Salem, OR, which is now home to Minto Island Growers. Her and her 2 siblings helped with the nursery that her father managed, which mainly focused on hybrid poplar and other native plant propagation for riparian (riverside) restoration projects. The Millers purchased the property in the 1970s and also continued to grow mint that the farm was planted in for essential oils.
Elizabeth went away to college in Colorado, which is where she met Chris Jenkins. Chris had worked at Rana Creek in Carmel Valley, CA so he specialized in plant restoration and living architecture. After college, Elizabeth and Chris spent a year working at Knoll Organic Farm in Brentwood, CA learning from the eccentric Rick & Kristie Knoll on their 10 acre biodynamic farm. This was their first exposure vegetable production.
In 2008 Chris and Elizabeth returned to Oregon and Elizabeth’s family farm to start Minto Island Growers. In conjunction with the nursery, MIG encompasses the certified organic vegetable fields, blueberries and Oregon’s only tea farm. They are mainly a CSA farm, with about 240 main season members and about 100 winter members. Some produce is also sold at the farm stand, Salem’s Saturday Farmers Market and local retailers and restaurants. Elizabeth’s mother manages the on-farm food cart which employs students of South Salem High School’s culinary program and has been in operation since 2010. Beside Elizabeth and Chris, they have 6 full-time employees plus a number of part-time staff that makes up 15-18 people at any point in the season.
The tea is a unique and exciting project: the only farm scale tea production in the state of Oregon. The camelia sinensis plants were originally planted between 1988 and 1992 as a 1/2 acre test plot by Elizabeth’s father Rob Miller and John Vendeland. They wanted to see how well the plants would do in Oregon and were impressed with how well they thrived. The Oregon Tea Crafters green, oolong and black teas are available for purchase at the farm stand & farmers market, at J-Tea in Eugene and online soon! Read Edible Portland’s September 2013 story about the Minto Island Grower Tea Project.
Certifications: Certified Organic by the Oregon Tilth
“Every year you gain more knowledge, feel more confident” – Elizabeth Miller
“You can’t take anything for granted” – Elizabeth Miller