There's no other explanation for the long days of planting, tending and selling their vegetables and fruits at local farmers markets, or their delight in watching children discover the goodness of fresh produce.
"The farmers market gives me a shot of energy every week," said Kathleen, who is up at 5:30 every summer morning watering and tending the fruits of the couple's labor. "I love it when a kid tries something and says, 'This is really good.'?"
When the long months of work wind down, the couple steer their RV south for a month in
"I don't think about it at all," Kathleen said.
"On one side of things, I think people are becoming more aware of supporting local farmers, and this food movement we see here in the county gives me optimism," Lambert said. "On the other side of the coin, sometimes with development pressure, it is difficult to get into farming."
"Hers is a model farm in that she did everything right," he said. "All eight cylinders are running."
Jeff and Kathleen married in 1991. Jeff retired in 2002 from a job as a mental health administrator for
The couple sold their home and hit the road for six years of travel and adventure across the U.S. and
When looking for a home, Kathleen "would bring a shovel along and turn the soil," Jeff said. But the stifling heat and humidity of much of the country was more than they could bear, so they decided to head back to where they'd started.
"The weather here is fabulous," Kathleen said.
It also was a nice fit for their families: Their five children and a growing brood of grandchildren -- the 16th of which was born this summer -- all live within four hours of their home.
Like many people, Kathleen had started gardening to feed her family. Raising vegetables eventually became a passion, which tapped into her interest in the science of soil health and other technical details of maximizing productivity without use of chemicals. Jeff had little experience in growing crops before meeting Kathleen.
"I never thought I would be doing this 25 or 30 years ago," he said.
The couple, who had become
They set to work clearing grass and trees, building up their soil, growing vegetables for themselves and a neighbor, and coming up with a plan for the small farm. In 2011, the farm began operation with sales at farmers markets and through the CSA program.
They built the high tunnel in 2012, its construction financed in part by a federal grant to encourage intensive, environmentally sensitive agriculture to produce crops for local consumption.
Last year, they reported earnings on their farm operation and made enough to cover their mortgage.
This year will not be as profitable, Kathleen said. In part, they needed time for a new grandchild. They chose not to offer up a CSA program, and they cut back to just the Camas Farmer's Market, which is open only on Wednesdays.
"Something had to give," Kathleen said.
The Boreens are keenly aware of the limits imposed by their age, and other interests and obligations. They said they intend to keep up the pace until Kathleen reaches full retirement age, and can tap into a pension and her
"We have to focus on efficiencies," Kathleen said.
It 'starts with the soil'
On a recent sun-swept morning, Jeff walked along bare-dirt raised beds with a propane torch, burning budding weeds before they become fully established. Kathleen was preparing the day's harvest of purple and red peppers for the Camas Farmer's Market.
Nearby, a pair of lesser goldfinches swirled over a row of Italian yellow wax beans. In the summer months, Jeff said, the farm attracts white-crowned sparrows. A pair of those often hover at one end of a row of vegetables as one of the Boorens works at the other, then switches places as the farm owners move about. This year, there are more of the sparrows. Even at this small farm, with suburban homes
and stores only one mile away, nature shows its resilience.
The Boorens are all about organic farming, and the "French intensive" method they've embraced maximizes their farm's productivity. The time-intensive technique is based on double-digging raised beds to supplement soil with fertilizer, careful spacing of plantings, and companion planting of different vegetables and flowers to attract beneficial insects, reduce water consumption and optimize productivity within organic farming standards.
The tomato plants inside and outside the tunnel are an impressive sight. The farm's 135 tomato plants mostly of four varieties -- including two heirloom varieties -- occupy 400 square feet of their farm. Jeff has built large A-frame structures out of 2-by-4s with the tomatoes attached using aircraft-industry tie-downs. The plants can be lowered in cool weather periods for added warmth or raised on warm weather days to draw more sun.
The Boorens were among the first small farmers in
Under the program, the Boorens are obligated to develop an integrated pest management program and to provide data to the federal agency.
While such research adds to their workload, it suits Kathleen's interest in constantly improving growing conditions by understanding the forces of nature. She said she finds herself constantly tweaking soil to improve plant health.
"Everything starts with the soil," she says.
Turning a profit
Producing is one thing, but selling requires a different set of skills. Kathleen has transferred the personal skills honed in her banking career to selling produce, especially at the farmers markets.
"To me, it's all about relationships," she said.
The couple and their customers enter into each other's lives. When someone is in the midst of an important life event, she said, "you set aside some of the best (produce) that you have."
She also manages a tight financial ledger, calculating the gross sales potential per square foot of every vegetable and fruit on their farm. She then compares that potential to the actual net sales of each product.
Tomatoes are the most profitable of their crops, she says, but it takes hard work to produce early and late harvests that draw the highest prices. The high tunnel is a huge help. The protective covering creates a planting climate similar to what exists 500 miles to the south, Kathleen said. The couple aimed to bring tomatoes to the market each year by mid-June or even earlier.
Those early tomatoes can be sold at prices about 25 percent higher than in midseason, Kathleen said. And lettuce, which they were planting earlier this month, will be their last fresh crop of the season. It also should command a high price.
But the time-intensive nature of their work comes at a cost. Organic fruits and vegetables from
Kathleen says jokingly that her farm's prices are those of "
"They want to know who is growing their food," she says of her customers. "They trust what we say, and we are honored by that."
County rules for their rural residential area prevent them from hiring employees at the farm, and property covenants limit their ability to hire employees. The Boorens, active in the county's master gardener program, said she would like to pass their knowledge to others.
They're considering bringing on an intern next summer to learn and help out.
With retirement on the not-too-distant horizon, they also are contemplating their transition to a slower pace of life. Perhaps, Jeff says, in a few years, they will move into blueberry production, which requires a three-month window for harvest and sales, and some pruning in the winter.
They could plant more fruits to supplement their existing pear and apple trees -- perhaps peaches, figs and cherries inside and outside the high tunnel.
With the RV in the driveway and a well-used kayak sitting at its side, easing up likely feels tempting at times. But there's work to be done, relationships to nurture, and rewards to be found in bringing the joy of good food to children and adults.
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