Growing food in Central Oregon does not happen by accident: The soil is poor, the seasons are short and the weather is always a challenge. None of that deterred Scott Maricle, his son Frank and daughter-in-law Janelle from embarking on their dream of feeding locally grown food to local people.
"Last year we got together and just asked ourselves, 'What if we did this?'" That was the beginning of Well Rooted Farms, according to Maricle, who's been in the area since 1992. He admits farming is in his blood, having done hobby farming and gardening projects throughout his life. Five years ago he decided he needed to learn how to grow organically, which led him into studying soil and regenerative practices and discovering the world of agronomy, the science of soil management. "I got in touch with people that are really advanced in knowing how to grow things well, with my purpose being to grow the most nutrient-dense and flavorful food that I can. In order to get healthy plants that can resist insects and disease I have to address all the needs of the plant by feeding them and developing the soil so that ultimately the soil can feed them everything they need. I want to grow healthy plants that don't need pesticides," Maricle states.
The local, sustainable, all-natural, family run farm started out with three acres of tomatoes (a crop that was overwhelmingly large last year, as the Source reported in November) an acre of sweet corn and some cucumbers. This year they've diversified, growing things such as cabbages, carrots, beets, peppers, onions, potatoes, corn, squash, eggplant, watermelons, and pumpkins. If you hurry, you can pick a selection of those 100% locally grown vegetables now at Well Rooted's U-Pick location in Tumalo which will be open for a while longer depending on hard frost conditions. Right now at the farm, "You can pick a 20-pound box of tomatoes in 3 minutes!" Maricle exclaims.
Well Rooted also has a veggie shed in Redmond stocked with its fresh vegetables, which will remain open until there are no more local vegetables to offer. "Potatoes, carrots, beets and squash will be available for quite some time. We are trying to stay real in our definition of local, which means for now we're only offering what is seasonal and what we've grown," Maricle says. "We want to be authentic. What you see is what we grow. When we run out we run out."
A half mile down the road from the U-Pick location, the Maricles have a big greenhouse with chickens roaming around it. Those free-range chickens produce eggs that you can pick up at the farm and veggie shed. In the future, the variety of offerings could expand. Maricle spends a lot of time looking at seed catalogues and figuring out what folks want. "People won't drive across town for a head of cabbage, but they will drive across town for a cantaloupe that is amazingly sweet. Corn and tomatoes really bring the people. I'm hoping to get strawberries planted in time to be available next June as well." Maricle continues, "There has to be a business element to it in order to continue, even though I love doing it. This year is better than last year and we've moved it into a business from a hobby and we're in the black. The bottom line is if people don't buy it we can't afford to grow it."
If you're new to U-Pick, Well Rooted makes is easy. The farm is well marked and easy to find, just off the main road. You're likely to see Frank, Janelle or Scott working around the place when you arrive. There are signs with instructions and a rack full of baskets (in case you neglected to bring your own) and the rows and rows of veggies you can pick are right there and easy to access. The kids are welcome and you can even check yourself out inside the little shed and pay with credit card, cash or even Venmo. As Scott Maricle puts it, "I grew up on a farm eating this way and I just think everybody should be able to eat fresh, out of the garden. We want to help people experience that and be able to taste what they pick and learn to enjoy vegetables."
Well Rooted Farms U-Pick
65900 White Rock Loop, Bend
Open daily 9am to 8pm
Well Rooted Farms Veggie Shed
4700 SW 43rd St., Redmond
Open daily 7am to 8pm