In the 40ís, Daniel was one of the first farmers in Clackamas County to start growing grass for seed. Since then, grass seed farming has gone on to be a major crop for Oregon; being ranked as high as 4th on Oregonís list of top 40 commodities. As of a few years back, it was reported that roughly 1,500 farms in Oregon grow grass seed, growing 60 percent of the worlds grass seed supply. This is a crop the farm still produces today.
Richard L. Gingerich was born in 1936. After school, Richard spent 2 years doing Voluntary Service with the Mennonite Church. In February 1956, Richard married Shirley and in 1957 he took over running the farm. Daniel moved to a nearby farm that he had purchased, continuing to farm that land until he retired several years later.
In 1960, Richard purchased the original farm. At that time the predominant crops were; grass seed, wheat, and oats and to a lesser extent, sugar beets and both vegetable and flower seeds. The farm still had some livestock, mostly hogs and sheep.
In the 60ís, Richard started planting Christmas trees and in 1964, along with two other Christmas tree growers, they formed Yule Tree Farms. Since then, Christmas tree farming has grown dynamically, becoming one of Oregonís larger crops. In 2002, Oregon led the US production with 6.5 million trees and having approximately 67,800 acres (out of the roughly 447,000 acres in the US) into Christmas tree production.
Yule Tree Farms first harvest was in 1970 and consisted of 500 trees. Since then, Yule Tree Farms has continued to grow, becoming one of the 5 largest Christmas tree growers in the nation. Currently they have over 3,800 acres comprising of over 6 million trees; harvesting and shipping over 1 million trees every year.
Late in the 1970ís Richard started looking into other possible crops for the farm. In 1982, the first hazelnut orchard was planted and in 1983, the first blueberry field was planted.
The United States produces approximately 4% of the world's supply of hazelnuts, with Turkey producing the vast majority. But of that 4% of the world supply, 99% of those hazelnuts are grown right here in Oregon. Oregon has approximately 28,400 acres of hazelnuts. The hazelnut is also Oregonís official state nut. As with grass seed, hazelnut growers are usually generational farms, farmed by those who grew up doing the same kind of farming that they carry on today.
In 1958, R. Verne Gingerich was born, followed by his sisters. Lynda Gingerich was born in November of 1960 and Krista Gingerich was born in January of 1968. Verne and his sisters grew up on the farm, working in many of the same crops as their predecessors had.
Verne not only worked the farm, but after he finished school, he worked in various other fields; trucking and air freight handling being two; and lived in other parts of the country. For a few years, he lived and worked in the Chicago area. This was where he met his future wife, Nadine.
Verne and Nadine were married in October of 1979 and had 4 children; two boys and two girls. Tristan was born in 1981, Brean was born in 1983, Theran was born in 1987, and Caylan was born in 1989. All of the children have worked on the farm in one form or another until they have reached the age to go out and experience more of what the future might hold for them.
Verne and Nadine have always wanted to make sure that none of their children felt as if they were ďforcedĒ to end up working on the farm, but they also felt a responsibility to install a work ethic. The same work ethic that was installed in each generation of Gingerichs.
After his major schooling was completed, Tristan worked for the farm for several years, helping to start us in most of our organic and substainable practices. He is now doing advanced studies for his Masters Degree through an internship at WVU.
Brean worked at the farm in both the office during blueberry season and driving tractor at other times of the year until a few years ago. She is now pursuing a career in Human Services.
Theran is currently attending college taking both business and agricultural related classes. He comes back every summer, working the farm and acting as one of our main grass seed harvesters.
Caylan is attending her first year of college, starting last fall and usually works every summer at the farm, usually working in the blueberry fields during harvest time, helping to weigh-in and transport the blueberries to the pack shed.
In 2001, Verne took over the day to day running of the farm, as Richard began to devote more of his time with Yule Tree Farms.
Today the farm is still growing and always looking to the future. Currently the farm has approximately 200 acres of hazelnuts, including such varieties as Barcelona, Ennis and Lewis. We also co-crop another 500 acres with local families and farmers. Many of our acres are in established orchards, but we're also planting new acreage.
We now have approximately 90 acres of blueberries at the main farm, 24 acres of that being new organic blueberry plants. We also co-crop another 10 acres of blueberries for a couple of our local neighbors.
Shortly after the farms first blueberry harvest, it was decided that the farm should also pack its own fruit. This practice has been continued on through the years until we now not only pack our own fruit for both fresh and frozen markets, but also for several other growers in the valley. We are not one of the larger packers in our area we have continued to grow through the years. We usually are around 1.5 to 2 million pounds packed for a season.
Until the 2008 season, the farm had always done it's packing in a temporary pack shed, using multi-purpose buildings modified during the summer for this purpose. In the fall of 2007 we broke ground on a new building and completed it for packing blueberries for the 2008 season. The new building more than doubled our cooling space, tripled our loading dock capabilities and most importantly, gave us a controlled temperature packing building.
Gingerich Farms continues to look for areas to improve and expand, knowing that nothing can ever stay completely static. Our on-farm trials and tests using composts and compost teas; visiting other farms and production facilities around the nation and around the world; the use of falcons for bird control; sending our managers to training seminars and extension classes; all these things are seen as part of our movement towards the future of the farm.
This brief history has only followed the Gingerich Farms family from 1919 to today and is not in anyway the whole story. Employees past and present are also part of that story, part of the family that is Gingerich Farms. Other farms and the people in the local communities have helped shape were we are today. They have shared their lives with the Gingerichs and enriched them, helping Gingerich Farms to create and maintain a tradition and heritage that continues today. And, even though my name may not be Gingerich, I'm just as proud to be part of that tradition, that heritage, that family and this farm.
Gingerich Farms Products, Inc.
Special thanks to Shirley Gingerich, OregonGrassSeed.com, Yule Tree Farms, State of Oregon and the University of Illinois Extension: Christmas trees & more for some of the statistical information.
Gingerich Farms has grown many things over the past years, but for the last 25 years Hazelnuts, Grass Seed and Blueberries have been our mainstay.
In 1878, Frederick J. Gingerich was born in Iowa. He moved to Nebraska in 1913 and then in 1919 he moved to Oregon. Once here he purchased what would become Gingerich Farms. The farm at that time was a Pure-bred Jersey Dairy, and had pure-bred heifer and cow auctions that drew in buyers from all over Oregon and other states.
His son Daniel L. Gingerich was born in1905. When Daniel married in 1927, he took over the original house and farming the original farm. Frederick had moved across the road to property where he had built a new house and farm buildings on. At that time, Daniel and his family raised a mixture of crops; corn, oats, vetch and flax, as well as hogs, cattle and sheep. Daniel purchased the original property in 1937.