Evan Gregoire, Portland Seedhouse
What They Seed:
Specialty crops to use for culinary purposes and seed production for a cooperative seed catalog.
Where You Can Find Them:
Retail: Garden Fever, Providore Fine Foods, Urban Farm Store, Portland Homestead Supply
Online: Online Store + Catalog
Special Events: Oregon Truffle Festival, Oregon Olive Mill Olio Nuovo Festival and other specialty markets
Q&A with Evan Gregoire, Portland Seedhouse
What is your background?
Former co-owner and farmer at Boondockers Farm, in Beavercreek for over ten years. My ethos has been to educate myself about sustainable food production in order to help empower others. I hold workshops, classes and tours for all ages on biodiversity, growing techniques, preserving foods, saving seeds, heirloom vegetables and heritage animals on and off the farm. As a master gardener and farmer in Eugene before moving to Portland, I found my second nature for soil nutrition, permaculture and community involvement.
When and how did you get started in this industry?
I went to Terra Madre and Italy with an intention to collect seeds and meet farmers on my travels at the conference and afterwards. It has had such a great impact on my personal goals to spread biodiversity and keep growing my seed collection internationally. As a result of my travels the Portland Seedhouse was born from really seeing the collaborative effort among farmers to collect seed and protect it. This project will allow for the thousands of years of biodiversity to remain in the hands of farmers and keep all of us in touch with our roots, which is ever so important.
What was the inspiration to start this farm?
The loss of small farms, older and wiser generations of farmers, and the diversity of animals and plants that thrived on those farms. We need diversity in breeds and seeds, especially with a changing climate and rising populations. I’m also concerned about loss of flavor in vegetables. Maintaining balance among fragile ecosystems is key to learning how to produce food in a sustainable way. In Oregon, we have a strong culinary micro-region of our own. We can play a larger role in the community by cultivating food culture through growing and saving diverse populations of plants and animals.
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I get to be a big kid in charge of some important genetics. Who wouldn’t want to influence what they eat to make it better? Shopping for produce in college always made me mad because I wanted to see the diversity from other countries. Even in farmers markets overseas there are farmers growing extensive diversity with the knowledge of multiple lifetimes. Accessing this treasure chest is about preserving culture and biodiversity. The only way you can make that happen is do it yourself. Unfortunately universities don’t save many genetics or if they do they need the help of the people to keep the varieties from dying in the seedbanks. My passion comes from being able to play the part in agriculture that is dying, many crops are nearing extinction. We have the power to change that. That is my favorite part.
What was your biggest “aha moment” as a farmer – when something clicked or you learned a great lesson?
My moment was when I realized I had the ability to save seeds. Obtaining that type of knowledge doesn’t leave you. It’s like riding a bike, you might get off it part of the year but right back in and you never forget it. It is the grassroots of all agriculture and the relationship to the land becomes more adept in all facets. You learn to watch the plants more closely. Seeds become the goal. Seeing a plant set seeds has a great accomplishment factor. Knowing it did the best job it could to pass on its treasures to another generation is exciting.
Advice to Other Seeders + Feeders: Try the best you can and you will succeed. Everyone can play a major role in agriculture.
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