The Northwest Direct farm case studies were developed to provide in-depth information about the direct and semi-direct marketing opportunities that exist for farmers within their regional food system and how these opportunities are captured by a diverse set of successful producers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.   Direct marketing strategies employed by the farmers featured in this series include farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSAs), u-pick, farm stand and on-farm sales.   Semi-direct marketing strategies include sales to restaurants, caterers, retailers (grocery stores, butchers, etc.) and processors, arranged and completed by the farmer him/herself without the use of brokers or wholesalers.

In 2002 and 2003, members of the case study research team performed in-depth on-farm interviews with each of the 12 farm families in this study.  Interviews were transcribed, financial information was collected, reviewed and interpreted and outlines for the case study content were developed.  Professionals were hired to write the case studies.  Each case study went through a series of reviews by the case study farmers, university faculty and research team members with final permission for publishing and distribution given by the farmers themselves.

The nature of profitable small acreage farming demands flexibility and the willingness to change.  These case studies, therefore, reflect a “snapshot in time” of each farm.  Readers should be aware that these farms have undoubtedly evolved since the initial interviews.  They should also be aware that the unique nature of each farm necessitates an individualized treatment of the analysis of farm profitability and the criteria by which that is measured.  The case studies contain financial information to the extent that farmers were willing to share, and reflect our intention to educate the reader, while at the same time protecting the farmers’ need for confidentiality.

It is our intent that the case studies will be of use to:

  • Current farmers who want access to a greater share of the revenue that comes from the foods they grow and raise and are interested in exploring one or more marketing options.
  • New farmers who are designing their production and marketing systems, who are interested in employing one or more marketing strategies, and are establishing a business plan for their farm.
  • Educators and other agricultural professionals who work with producers and others interested in direct and semi-direct marketing.
  • Policy-makers who are interested in enhancing the financial stability of family farms in the region through innovative policy and government funding.

A total of 12 case studies were produced by Rural Roots, Inc. and the University of Idaho as part of the Northwest Direct project.  A list of the other case studies in the series is included at the end of this document.  These case studies are one component of a larger USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems project called Northwest Direct: Improving Markets for Small Farms.

Colette DePhelps, NW Direct Case Study Research Team Leader

Idaho Farms

Greentree Naturals

Located in Sandpoint Idaho, Diane Green and her husband Thom Sadoski have been farming on the same property for the last 17 years. They started out with just a couple of acres in production and have been slowly adding additional acres. They are now farming organically on 12 acres- of which 100% of the products grown and raised are sold through direct markets including 2 area farmers’ markets, a vegetable CSA, a flower CSA, and direct sales to retail, restaurants and caterers. Products include a huge assortment of vegetables, fruits, berries, flowers, herbs, eggs and pastured poultry. One of Diane’s specialties is garlic, which she sells as both a raw product and as ornamental garlic braids.

Diane has been selling at Sandpoint Farmers’ Market since 1987 and they have operated and managed a CSA since 1996. Restaurant sales have also been a vital component of Diane’s business since 1993. She is known by farmers across the United States because of her practical guide on “Selling Produce to Restaurants.” Click here for the full case study.

M&M Heath Farms

Mike and Marie Heath have been farming in Buhl, Idaho since 1979. Total farm size is 450 acres, of which they own 18. The farm is Idaho certified organic on 200 acres with the remainder either in transition to organic or non-certified organic. Primary production is in organic potatoes and other vegetables with secondary production in beef, eggs, pastured poultry, grains, orchard fruits, berries and flowers. Direct marketing strategies include; farmers’ markets, a CSA, direct to retail sales and direct to processing sales. In addition, 60% of the food consumed in the Heath household is produced on the farm. Click here for the full case study.

Meadowlark Farms

Janie Burns, the owner/operator of Meadowlark Farm, originally came from a farming family and reintroduced herself back into farming on a small acreage basis in 1989. She started by growing fruits and vegetables on her Nampa, Idaho farm and selling them through a CSA and the Boise Farmers’ Market. Since then she has transitioned to and specializes in lamb. She sells whole lamb cuts as well as 4 different types of sausage along with poultry and egg sales at the Capital City Public Market in Boise. She also sells her products on-farm, direct to retail and through a multi-farm CSA. Click here for the full case study.

YouTube video here.

Riley Creek Farms

Blueberry sales are the name of the game for this operation in Laclede Idaho. Riley Creek Farm has 5 acres of blueberry production as well a small garden for customers to pick through and several rows of vegetables and blackberries. On this sustainable operation, chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is purposefully at a minimum. Stan Urmann, owner/operator turns his excess berries into several value added products such as blueberry jams, toppings and syrups- which leaves him with 26000+ lbs to sell through his direct marketing channels. Direct marketing channels include; farmers’ markets, on-farm, u-pick and direct to retail sales. Click here for full case study.

YouTube video here.

Oregon Farms

Ace High Orchards, Inc.

Operation is owned/operated by third generation family orchardist, Sam Asai in Hood River, OR. Ace High Orchards utilizes an integrated pest management system as one of their production tools. Direct marketing channels include; farmers’ markets, a CSA, on-farm stand, direct to retail sales, wholesale, mail order and internet sales.

Creative Growers

Located in Noti, OR. Aaron Silverman raises pastured poultry and grows vegetables and culinary herbs- all of which is grown and raised organically. Direct marketing channels employed include direct to retail sales, a CSA and restaurant sales.

Fields’ Farm

Located in Bend, OR, Jim Fields is the owner/operator of his farm that produces a variety of products including; vegetables, fruits, berries, flowers, herb and eggs. Direct marketing strategies include; on-farm sales, farmers’ markets, a CSA, restaurant and direct to retail sales.

Norton Creek Farm

Bill & Karen Black, Blodgett, OR – Eggs, broiler chickens, pork, lamb and turkey sold through farmers’ markets, direct to retail and on-farm sales.

Washington Farms

Alvarez Farms

Mabton, WA – With an innovative worker incentive contract Hilario Alvarez and his son Eddie, produce organic vegetables and fruit which is sold through farmers’ markets, on-farm sales, a CSA, mail order and resale outlets. The operation makes value-added products which are also sold through direct markets. Keep checking back for the full case study of this farm. See case study here.

Hedlin Farms

Mt. Vernon, WA – Dave Hedlin & Serena Campbell grow vegetables, fruits, berries, flowers, grains, herbs and nursery stock. They are currently transitioning to a certified organic status. They utilize integrated pest management systems while also growing some crops conventionally. Direct marketing strategies include; on-farm sales, farmers’ markets, direct to retail, and catalog and restaurant sales.

Rock Ridge Enterprises

Enumclaw, WA – Wade & Judy Bennett grow Asian pears, culinary and medicinal herbs, morel mushrooms and specialty vegetables using greenhouses, hydroponic, and permaculture methods. Produce is sold through farmers’ markets, on-farm sales, a CSA, direct to restaurants, direct to retail and wholesale sales.

S & S Homestead

Lopez Island, WA – Henning & Elizabeth Sehmsdorf raise vegetables, beef, pork, chicken and value-added products which they distribute through a CSA and custom contracts. Click here for case study.