Valley Flora’s Zoe Bradbury grew up on the family homestead in southern Oregon, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. She left at sixteen and came back many years later to a farm where her mother and sister had started growing and selling vegetables. Many years later, Valley Flora feeds over 100 CSA members and provides produce to dozens of restaurants and stores in the 50-mile radius around their farming collective, as well as a farmstand and u-pick operation on the farm. We discuss how she, her sister, and her mother have integrated the troublemaker of the family into the existing farming ventures, including the nuts and bolts of how the three separate farming operations cooperate to market together and share resources. Zoe shares her experience about the joys and challenges of farming with children, integrating horses into the operation, marketing in a rural environment, and living off the farm.
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Quotes from the Show
That’s the beauty of (this area) – is that it’s not Portland, it’s not Montpelier. It’s its own crusty blend.
[Zoe’s sister Abby] was a little bit ahead of the curve [with her salad greens in the 1990s], but there were just enough receptive chefs and a couple of health food stores and, combined with all of that, an absolutely beautiful product.
Where we live, we’re the last stop on the Sysco truck, so to get this totally fresh product that lasts for a couple of weeks and was beautiful to behold, I think it was an easy sell.
I like the challenge of something new.
[Our independent but cooperative business structure has] worked really beautifully. It’s meant that as a family we could farm together, side-by-side, but there’s none of the tension around being told what to do by someone else, or working more or less than someone else. Everyone can just be their own independent operator. And we can still have a nice time together on family dinner night.
You can’t really argue with QuickBooks. It turns it into this objective thing instead of this subjective emotional battleground.
Farming with two kids in tow, I had the hardest season ever this year… I had moments where I said words I’ve never said out loud. It’s really humbling to come up against that.
To realize that the last four years of having my first child, I’ve been a farmer and, oh, yeah, I have a kid. She’s in the backpack, comes with me everywhere. But now that there’s two, and you’ve got a four year old and an infant, I’ve had to realize that I’m a mother and I’m a farmer too. It had to flip a little bit in order for me not to lose my mind.
I’ve made a conscious choice that I like this scale, I like being in the field and being hands on, and I also like the management responsibilities.
Sometimes I think, what would it be like to farm with my partner? But someone once told me, “Don’t get your money where you get your honey.”
Our little town has become a hotbed for local food.
When you live in a small town, word travels fast. And it really matters to treat people well and to have integrity in business.
Take a deep breath, life is long. There’s another year, and another one after that. It’ll never be static, and what a blessing, because it keeps it really fun and inspiring, and every single year is a new adventure.
Zoe’s sister, Abby, learned about greens production from Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens, who has also been featured on the Farmer to Farmer Podcast.
Zoe learned about draft horses from Doc Hammill, who offers instructional workshops on driving and working horses in harness.
Zoe shared her housing experience from the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy.