Mind Your Business: Spotlight on Fry Family Farm
Somewhere in the triangle of farmland between Central Point, Medford, and Jacksonville, I am driving the country roads on a recent brisk autumn day. I’m heading this way to visit Fry Family Farm. Started in 1990, they are a true family farm; the oldest daughter recently returned to help with the farm’s expansion. With 90 acres, the Fry family grows vegetables, flowers and berries—and hosts a farm stand.
Pulling into the large gravel parking lot, I notice rows of greenhouses next to a large, new industrial building. It feels inviting here. I park, walk through sliding glass doors and am immediately surrounded by fresh fruits, vegetables, and houseplants. Amber greets me, and we talk about their recent expansion.
Rogue Valley Messenger: How did this all come together?
Amber Fry: My youngest sister and I are involved in the farm, with our parents. Building this (new facility) has really been a dream of my dad. He really needed a new processing facility keep up with the new regulations with the Food Safety Modernization Act. My husband and I moved back here to raise our young child, and when we got here, we kinda took over the idea. We helped secure the financing, get all the permits, find the builder, and get it done. Our budget for the project was $1.1 million, about 50 percent through private donors, the State of Oregon and USDA.
RVM: Was it hard to get it working on this piece of land?
AF: It is EFU land, Exclusive Farm Use. We needed to get access to the sewer to have water for the kitchen and proper bathrooms for our employees. The sewer is right out there (she points in front of the building). The laws were designed to protect farmers, but the problem is, if you are a farm and want to expand to meet the new regulations for food safety, it can be hard to do it on EFU land. There is a process, called a Goal 11 exemption that took about a year to obtain. It is a very expensive permit to obtain from Jackson Country. We had to prove that we’re a farm and will process our produce here, and to do that needs access to water disposal for washing our veggies and producing food.
RVM: But now, you’re hooked up?
AF: We are hooked up now! We are relieved! It’s a good thing to limit the over-expansion of farmland, but the same regulations also make it hard if you are trying to do the right thing for growing the farm.
RVM: What’s your product focus right now?
AF: We grow a lot of vegetables! For our products, I think we’ll stick with the pickled products to start. People love them. Some of our hot sauces are on the list too. We’re looking for more of the public’s feedback.
RVM: Has there been any challenges to bringing new products to market?
AF: Haven’t had any problems, really. We think more people that do a certain product brings more awareness to it regionally. There are a lot of consumers, and we all do our products a little different. It’s friendly competition. Hopefully, we’ll all bring more people into consuming these local products and move away from the traditional big label products. If you can find a good selection of, for example, hot sauces from your local region, you might want to try all of them, instead of let’s say a Tabasco.