2020 Year in Review

Practicing Resilience

By Taylor Starr

One great thing about farming is that it prepares you for surprises.  There is always a late frost or a freak thunderstorm or an unexpected pest to throw a farmer a curveball when you least expect it.  Well, 2020 provided us all with surprises just about every day!  Thankfully, we at White Oak Farm were able to adapt and meet the challenges while still providing support to our local community in new and exciting ways.  Between COVID-19 cancelations of school visits and overnight camps; wildfire impacts on farmers markets and air quality; and endless uncertainty, it has been a challenging year to say the least.  Here at the Farm we are extremely privileged to work from home, with a dedicated staff, in our relatively isolated rural community, and to have years of farming successes and failures to help prepare us for resilience in this time of upheaval.

Last spring, as we were gearing up for our biggest season ever of farm field trips and programs in the schools, it quickly became clear that we were going to need a major change of plans due to the escalating pandemic.  In March, we tossed our original schedule out the window and pivoted to new education programs.  This became a theme for the year: seeing opportunities in the chaos, and looking for new ways to do good work whenever possible.  We adapted our School Partnership Program, putting more energy into improving the gardens at our local schools; providing online content for the students that encouraged outdoor adventures, creativity, and healthy eating; offering garden-based education to small groups of students when it was safe to do so; and providing free produce boxes for eligible school families.  We also adapted our summer Farmstay, by dividing the group of twenty campers in two and hosting two weeks of day camp – each with ten students. This allowed the kids to spend time at the Farm (and with each other) in a safe manner for all. 

A free CSA box in August

On the Farm, 2020 provided some exciting opportunities as well.  Demand for our seed crops grew due to the pandemic-inspired interest in gardening. We had already been slowly expanding our seed production, and this year gave us the ability to make a big leap, producing crops of mustard greens, delicata squash, tomatoes, zinnias, nasturtiums, sunflowers, corn, and two species of milkweed.  We also adapted our marketing of produce this year after COVID-19, wildfires and smoke impacted our farmers markets, offering a weekly contactless produce pickup for our loyal customers.  Thanks to funds from the State of Oregon and generous donations from local folks, we greatly expanded our free CSA program to provide weekly produce to 40 school families.  The boxes included recipes and activities and were designed to encourage kids to try new healthy foods.  We were also able to donate thousands of pounds of winter squash, apples, pears, and greens to local schools, food banks, and fire victims this year, doing our small part to provide organic food to the many families struggling to eat in these challenging times.

A new and growing aspect of our work on the Farm is our restoration program.  This year we expanded our native plant nursery, growing over 30,000 plants for riparian restoration projects and native landscaping throughout Southern Oregon.  This fall, in partnership with our former Intern Josh Weber and funding from NRCS we are also embarking on 16 acres of restoration for forest health and wildfire safety in our woods.  This work seeks to make the Farm more fire safe in a time of escalating wildfires, and also to develop and demonstrate carbon-friendly forestry techniques and practices.  This is the beginning of a two-year project that will also lead to more trails, signage, and educational opportunities in our woods.

As 2020 comes to an end, we are busy planning for next year’s programs.   We are looking forward to continuing our work in the schools, providing free food to local families, growing seeds and native plants, working to make our woods healthier and more resilient, and hopefully welcoming students back to the Farm for educational programs.  Whatever the new year brings, we are ready to change and adapt!  With the rapidly worsening climate crisis, an ongoing pandemic, and a fractured society, I believe we are living through a period where upheaval will be the norm, and resilience will be the best strategy for coping and even thriving.  Life is not going to be easy, and so we are all going to have to work as hard as possible to approach each new situation with intelligence, flexibility, and compassion.  We are inspired daily by the incredible efforts of young people across the country to stand up and demand racial justice, human rights, and an aggressive response to the climate crisis.  Their example shows us that together, we have the collective ability to create a society that is in balance with nature and that celebrates and values all life.  We continue to be hopeful for this future, and inspired to be a part of doing the work to get there with all of you!

2020 – Year of the New Puppy.
Our farm dog Lucy, here pictured learning to watch the turkeys (without chasing them!)
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Fall Equinox Fundraiser

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Perennials Class April 15th

Join us Saturday, April 15th for the 3rd class in our Sustainable Living Skills Class Series, “Perennial Crop Care” with Taylor Starr and Brian Geier. 9am-1pm, organic snacks provided. Cost is $40. Please pre-register by calling 541 846 0776 or emailing info@whiteoakfarmcsa.org

This hands-on class will explore the world of perennials. Grow food, medicine, teas, fiber, basketry materials and more every year on your homestead with a small amount of maintenance. We will explore different methods of propagation, and participants will be able to bring home cuttings and divisions of plants. Some of the plants folks will be working with and bring home include: valerian, comfrey, lemon balm, basketry willow, flowers, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and more. Learn how to integrate low maintenance and high-bearing perennials into your homestead to feed your body and fuel your soul.

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Natural Building Workshop June 9-11

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2017 Sustainable Living Skills Class Series

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Natural Building Practicum Position Available!

50White Oak Farm is offering a 7 month Natural Building Practicum in 2017 for one qualified builder.  The position will provide the opportunity for an aspiring natural builder with at least one year of experience to practice their craft through the construction of a IMG_6316small cob/straw/light straw clay classroom as well as additional projects including plastering, solar hot water, carpentry, and more.  The builder will work with the Farm staff, interns, workshop participants, volunteers and school groups to implement the projects, providing ample opportunities for creativity, leadership, skill building, and experimentation.

IMG_6359The Natural Building Practicum is designed to provide experience to an individual with an interest in developing their knowledge and skills for a life and career in natural building. The program requires hard work, a good attitude, the ability to live and work with others, and self-motivation. The builder will receive simple housing in their own wall tent, staple foods, farm fruits and vegetables, and access to farm facilities including kitchen, phone, internet, showers, ponds, and a sauna.  There is also a monthly stipend.  Responsibilities of the program include three days per week of building projects as well as one day per week working on the farm, and daily chores.  All Farm residents are also expected to communicate clearly, be self-motivated, and work hard.

The program runs from April 1st to October IMG_293231, with a one month trial period.  Prior experience in natural building is required for participation.  To apply please send a cover letter describing your relevant experiences and interests, along with a resume and references to info@whiteoakfarmcsa.org

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Fourth Annual Fall Fundraiser Sept. 17

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Spring Farm Day – May 7th

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Sustainable Living Skills Spring Class Series!

class flyer2MORE DETAILS TO COME…

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The White Oak Organism – By Stephanie Magoon

IMG_2157A lot of words can be used to refer to White Oak, but I continually find that many of these terms fall short of doing justice to the scope and multidimensionality that creates this incredible place.

It assuredly is a farm; there are annual row crops, grazing animals, big compost piles. But that doesn’t mention White Oak’s epic, yet somehow immaculate, permaculture design; the irrigation system that gravity feeds the farm beds from water-catchment ponds which welcome swimmers on hot summer days; or the unbelievable plant diversity that blooms all season in the form of outrageously beautiful flowers, medicinal herbs, unusual fruits, and pollinator-feeding beneficial insects.

It’s also definitely an education center, as we’ve led a myriad of kids programs this season from preschool, to school visits, to a week-long summer farm camp. Being a part of these programs sheds light on kids who get to see food growing and who harvest their own lunch from the land for the first time. Their energy is totally transformed with awe and wonder upon experiences such as stepping into the forest for a hike or eating a healthy, fresh meal that they find they actually really like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I find particularly incredible is how these layers of highly functional systems and touching experiences weave together to create the White Oak enterprise. Looking at it from my perspective as an intern, I’m getting to learn about sustainable, regenerative agriculture; I’m gaining skills from teaching to homesteading to animal care, I’m getting a crash course in rural living and the resourcefulness that it necessitates, and so much more. The life I’m enjoying here only exists the way it does because of so much energy that has come before me. The buildings on the land I spend time in every day were built by folks that were part of natural building workshops who now have skills to create their own structures. The trees I’m eating delicious fruit from were cared for by interns from many previous years who can now grow their own food. The beautiful forest that I live in has been host to eco-forestry workshops, sending more forest stewards out into the world. All this energy from the past has gone into creating this ever-moving and growing place, continually fed in the present, and spreading more beauty throughout the world in the future.

imageSo when I think about White Oak, as a farm, an education center, a petting zoo, a permaculture paradise, a rich forest, a heartful community, it seems that in all its multi-layered, multi-functional magic, this White Oak organism’s aliveness rests in the kinetic energy of what can happen when people join together to create an abundant, thriving world.

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