Valley Flora Farm: Three Generations, One Big Idea

Nestled in a little river valley, four miles away from the sea as the crow flies, Valley Flora Farm is home to three incredible women.

Betsy and her daughters Zoë and Abby farm the loamy bottomland and raise Zoë and Abby’s four young children as one happy collective. Floras Creek cuts through the valley floor while maples and Douglas fir populate the southern hillside and open pastureland looks down on the valley from the north. The farm and the family that lives there exist in their own little micro-climate and the valley is the center of their universe.

Valley Flora feeds over 100 Harvest Basket members and provides produce to dozens of restaurants and stores in the 50-mile radius around their farming collective, as well as a farm stand and u-pick operation on the farm.

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In 2007, after years spent working for various organic farms and non-profits, Zoë and her two draft horses came home to Floras Creek. Zoë had studied ecology and sustainable agriculture at Stanford and wanted to create a closed-loop system that minimized the impact on the land and the planet.

“It was just so depressing. All the environmental studies classes are very focused on problems and not on solutions,” says Zoë as she reflects on her time at Stanford.

“I came around to sustainable agriculture as something that is positive in the social realm but also the environmental realm.” 

Today, Valley Flora has created a model for sustainable agriculture. Speaking about the family philosophy on preserving the health of their land, Zoë says, “We’ve done the best we can with cover crops and crop rotation and compost and just trying to tread as lightly as possible out there on our fields.”

“I don’t love turning on the tractor and I don’t love burning fossil fuels. My favorite days are when I have my horses hitched and harnessed and we are out there doing quiet work.”

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For Zoë, going solar had been a dream that was years in the making. In 2010, she received a bid for a solar system but between the price of the system and the lack of available grants or incentives, the project was too much to take on. “I put it in a folder in my filing cabinet until three or four years ago when I was urged by fellow farmers to reach out to Mia with Spark Northwest.”

With the help of Spark Northwest and the US Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Valley Flora Farm was able to secure funding for a 9.4 kilowatt system. REAP grants for farms and rural businesses will cover 25% of project costs for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. Additionally, Spark Northwest Program Manager Mia Devine helped Valley Flora apply for an Oregon Department of Energy Rural Energy Development grant that, combined with donations from Valley Flora customers and fans, helped reduce the $46,000 cost of the solar installation to just $3,000 out of pocket. Sol Coast Consulting, a local solar installer, was able to design a system that maximized the available roof space and supplies nearly 100% of the farm’s annual energy needs.

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“It’s just been amazing!” says Zoë. “Those panels up there are running the whole farm. Our irrigation pumps, our walk-in coolers, our propagation greenhouse, our lights, everything.”

“It’s probably the thing I am most proud of in all of the progress this farm has made in the last decade. And it’s totally thanks to Spark Northwest!”

You can check out Valley Flora Farm and their delicious products online. You can also learn about Spark Northwest’s rural energy programs and support their work by making a tax-deductible donation.

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