Author: Sally Reill
Publish Date: Fall 2007
Sally has been gardening for 40 years and is a 20 year veteran Master Gardener, active in the local chapter. Her interest in growing food crops goes back to childhood. Her father had a large garden to which he carted chicken manure from the chicken ranch across the road. John also came by his interest in growing vegetables early. He remembers growing a small garden as a child and visits to a family farm, as a teenager he worked on a small farm. A mutual interest in gardening brought them together.
After John retired from the Oregon State Parks Department he was looking for something to keep busy and supplement the retirement income. He had recently learned the art of welding and was making garden trellises and steel garden art, which he wanted to try selling at the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Newport. Sally decided to grow a few extra vegetables and take them along. They started in 2002; the locally produced vegetables sold quickly and were usually gone by 10:00 in the morning. They also sold cut flower bouquets. It was there that they met the proprietor and chef of a trendy, and very popular, Italian Restaurant in Newport, “April’s at Nye Beach”. At first Chef April bought whatever was available that she could use, including flowers, stressing locally grown and fresh ingredients on her menu. Soon she was ordering vegetables during the week and picking them up on Saturday morning at the market. The following year she was asking if special crops could be grown for her. After 4 years of taking everything they could produce to market, they could no longer produce enough to continue at the Market and satisfy the needs of the restaurant. In 2005 they decided to grow exclusively for one customer, and continue growing garlic for two other customers as well.
Irrigation is by hand watering. Crops are continually being harvested, rotated and replanted so drip systems are not practical and sediment in the stream water used could clog emitters. Overhead watering would promote disease too in the cool climate. One big benefit of hand watering is that all the plants get a good visual check at least once a week for developing problems.
The biggest challenges in the maritime climate are pests and diseases which favor the frequently damp weather. Pests such as slugs and flea beetles can ruin a crop quickly which makes timing of plantings important since there is sometimes no good way to control them without ruining the crop. Fungal diseases are a problem, particularly for tomatoes and squash; organic preventative sprays are a must.
Sally makes flowers into miniature bouquets for each table and large bouquets for the reception and window areas. The varieties proven most useful are Zinnias, Sunflowers, Rudbeckias and other perennials. Bouquet fillers include such things as garlic scapes, dill seed heads and herbs, making them interesting and unique.
The vegetables are picked and delivered once or twice a week depending on season and demand, and to ensure freshness. The Reills stress very high quality in their produce. This arrangement has worked out well for both the farmers and the restaurant. The restaurant can serve fresh in season food and the farmers are not tied down to a weekly Market.