Janet and Don Davis believe in the power of community and keeping things local, so it makes sense that they have a small scale farm business to feed the community with sustainable, local foods.
Both Janet and Don grew to love the idea of farming when they were young. Janet’s granddad sold vegetables he grew himself from his horse drawn cart. Don built his first greenhouse at age 11 in the Bay area and sold his first tomatoes at age 13.
When Janet and her husband, Don, moved onto their property in Tillamook County in July of 1998, it was a single acre overgrown with three foot tall thistles. Over the past 14 years, Janet and Don managed to find time to work the land while working full time jobs, serving on the board for the Tillamook Farmer’s Market, establishing the first Thursday evening farmer’s market to reach communities unable to participate on Saturdays, and raising their two sons – all the while keeping their eyes on the end goal of owning their own farm and greenhouses to feed the community.
In 2008, Don learned about the Oregon IDA Initiative while volunteering for the Tillamook Farmers Market board from Shelly Bowe. Shelly is a board member of Food Roots, a partner organization of the IDA Initiative whose mission is “to cultivate a healthy food system for our North Coast of Oregon community.”
Janet seized the opportunity and became one of Food Roots’ first IDA participants. Janet says that the biggest motivator was that the IDA would enable their farm “to do things that were going to produce more food for more people and that is a phenomenal thing.”
Over the course of her three years saving, Janet’s intended purchase shifted a bit, but always in line with her business plan for Don’s Waterfall Farm, a farm and nursery that serves the local community.
Food Roots works with the Tillamook County Small Business Development Center to facilitate business plan development with their IDA savers and have worked with OSU extension, and Tillamook Bay Community College to facilitate business plan development specific to small scale farmers. Janet really appreciated that the financial education classes were all taught by people who were from the area and part of the local community. She points out that it really makes a difference when you’re being taught about these things by your neighbors and fellow community members. Lauren Karl, Food Roots’ Community Food and Microenterprise Coordinator, explains that a healthy food system involves “educating our kids first and foremost, because they are our future; but it’s also supporting our food systems and small business owners, and educating our community members about the economic impact of supporting local, food system businesses… Our IDA program supports farmers, small scale farm operations, caterers, food trucks, nurseries” – all of whom represent various faces of the food system in Tillamook County and North Coast.
Janet says that although she has an “extensive professional background in financial management and accounting, there is always something new to be learned” and one of her roles in the financial education classes was supporting peers in her cohort that did not have as much experience. She said networking between businesses was extremely valuable and Janet continues to work one-on-one with a neighbor of hers who is now enrolled in the program, giving accounting and book-keeping advice as her neighbor starts up her own IDA for a new farm. Throughout the conversation, the value placed on community and supporting each other resonated.
With the IDA, Janet purchased a tractor locally from Boyd’s Implement Service, as well as a rototiller and a pressure washer. Already, that has transformed their ability to work the land and she hopes the tractor will “last through being able to pass it on to our heirs… even though it’s an older tractor, it should have a minimum of fifty or sixty more years of life in it.” Most of the use they’ve gotten out of it so far has been helping their neighbors – planting corn and tomatoes for their neighbor Gary, while knocking down weeds that were overgrown on a manure pile for another neighbor Maxine. They’re looking forward to the fall and next spring when it will really be useful for their farm, but until then are more than happy to continue helping others.
Lauren, from Food Roots, reinforced the Davis’ passions to support their community, saying that Don and Janet are some of the strongest advocates for the IDA Initiative she knows and are continually bringing more people in to benefit from it. She also mentioned that Janet and Don “have had interns work for them because they are so knowledgeable about what they do and the plants that they grow. Those interns have provided staff support and what they get out of it is the education piece.”
Don’s Waterfall Farm is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm. Don and Janet were able to hire a neighbor as a part-time employee who makes it possible for them to be away from the nursery if necessary. Their farm now has six greenhouses and it is hard for Janet to remember what they did before they purchased the tractor, the rototiller, and the power washer with the IDA. The Davis’ look forward to the use they and their neighbors will get out of all of their hard-earned tools for decades to come.