Le Tour De Greenhouses

David and Carmelo pick arugula raab in a greenhouse full of overgrown salad greens.

It’s no secret that Gathering Together Farm has embraced the use of season-extending plastic greenhouses. This year we have 38 of them plus the heated propagation greenhouse for starting seedlings. Greenhouses offer extra heat during the cooler seasons and the opportunity to deliver a measured amount of water to plants (as opposed to whatever the sky lets loose). Unfortunately, they are expensive to buy, build, and maintain because of the infrastructure costs and the extra labor hours needed to set up irrigation and do the work that a tractor could do out in an open field. There is also the looming risk of losing greenhouses during winter snow storms or other extreme weather events. This winter we had two small greenhouses collapse under the weight of snow in January (read more here), but the middle-of-the-night snow-sloughing efforts of John, Sally, and several crew members saved the rest during the deep snows at the end of March.

The reality is that we have thousands of individual and restaurant customers that want to buy produce from us year round, and we have nearly a hundred employees that are eager to work as much as possible. Growing under cover allows us to produce larger quantities of higher-quality fruits and vegetables for more of the year than the outdoor Oregon climate would permit.

At this time, all our greenhouses are in use. Our mid-season staples like tomatoes and cucumbers are well established, and some early spring crops are finishing up and will soon be harvested, torn out, or tilled in to prepare for planting fall crops. Each photo (or set of two photos) below represents a single greenhouse, so you should get a good sense of how we’re employing these shelters. (There are two additional greenhouses planted with more tomatoes that were somehow overlooked during the photo shoot. Sorry.) In some of these photos, you will see weeds because unfortunately, this organic farm is not pristinely weed-free.

first of the season strawberries

white salad turnips going to flower






























  snap peas


white salad turnips


lettuces for salad mix (plus weeds)












  sage and tarragon

baby leeks that will soon be dug up and transplanted outdoors




scallions (left) and baby bunching onions


peppers (See more about planting peppers here.)















 tomatoes (See more about trellising tomatoes here.)

the propagation greenhouse with the tomato grafting chamber in the back on the left

red leaf head lettuce














 head lettuce



Sometimes when we want to add extra heat in a greenhouse, the crew will build a floating row cover tent over the crop.


The crew (Macario on the left and David on the right) lays down plastic mulch in a greenhouse that was  later planted with more tomatoes and eggplant.















 bok choy

radicchio for salad mix
















overwintering chard

flowering watercress

spinach (See more about seeding this spinach in here.)

flowering watercress

Ana Patty’s Chocolate Guinness Cake

This week, both Ricky (#2 in the kitchen) and JC (head chef) celebrated birthdays, so on Tuesday, Ana Patty (GTF pastry chef) brought in a chocolate Guinness cake of her own creation to celebrate and share with the kitchen crew. This cake is moist, dark, and richly flavorful. The added Guinness isn’t an afterthought or a subtle “secret” ingredient but more like the star of the show. The crumb tastes like beer but in a delicious, chocolately way, and the light touch of Bailey’s Irish Cream in the whipped cream topping adds a little boozy complexity.

Chocolate Guinness Cake 

makes two 8″ cakes

very loosely adapted from a chocolate buttermilk cake recipe in Caprial’s Desserts

for the cake:

3 1/8 (1 lb) all purpose flour
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 good eggs
3 good egg yolks
2 1/2 cups Guinness beer
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong coffee

for the topping:

 1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream or other flavored syrup
dark chocolate (grated) or extra cocoa powder

*This recipe can be done with or without an electric mixer.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix dry ingredients together, and make sure no lumps remain. Add the oil and buttermilk and mix until thoroughly combined. Gradually add in the eggs and egg yolks a little at a time and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the beer, vanilla extract, and coffee mix until smooth. The batter will be very runny (the consistency of chocolate syrup).

Grease two 8-inch pans and pour in the batter. Bake. Check the cakes after 20 minutes to make sure they’re not burning. Remove the cakes from the oven when an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 30 minutes total).

When the cakes are cool, whip the cream and then fold in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Spread a layer of whipped cream on top of each cake and then use a pastry brush to paint on the Bailey’s Irish Cream or flavored syrup. Sprinkle on grated dark chocolate or cocoa powder.

Ana Patty‘s cake was thoroughly enjoyed by the GTF staff. Though there were a few plates and forks involved, most folks unceremoniously picked up pieces of cake in their fingers and savored big bites of deliciousness.














Last but not least, we’d like to say a big Happy Birthday to both Ricky (May 2) and JC (May 3) and thanks to Ana Patty for sharing her cake and her recipe!

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for May 1-4

GTF salad with flat iron, white turnips, and red wine vinaigrette

Happy May Day! We’re welcoming in another beautiful month with new seasonal vegetables and delicious food. Fresh peas, carrots, and a few pints of strawberries have arrived in the farmstand, and we have fresh pasta on the menu every day.

Our wine dinner last week was a fabulous success, and we’re beginning to plan the next one that will happen at the end of June. We are continuing to serve dinners in the restaurant every Thursday and Friday night. Call 541-929-4270 for a reservation.

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

to start: 

pâte with dried cranberry, baguette, cornichon, and mustard
duck liver crostini with sour cherry mostarda
crespelle with duch and rhubarb
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with grilled flat iron, white turnips and red wine vinaigrette
mushroom soup with artisan bread
potato and leek soup with artisan bread



capers/GTF ham/tomato/mozzarella
bacon/caramelized shallot/tomato/mozzarella



tortelli with shallots, beef tongue, and turnip raab
orecchiette with blue cheese, leeks, tomato, and pea shoots
herb and olive bread pudding on beets and kale
creamy polenta, farm bounty and poached egg
GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns
duck confit with polenta and balsamic
housemade baguette
potato and leek soup
caper/GTF ham/tomato/mozzarella pizza

leeks/peas/tomato/mozzarella pizza

nettle ravioli
tortelli with shallots, beef tongue, and turnip raab
parsley oil
duck confit with polenta and balsamic














JC and Ricky double team an order.

herb and olive bread pudding on beets and kale














Sunshine in the (wheelchair-accessible) garden room and lilacs in the kitchen. Ahhh…

housemade chorizo

real potatoes for our famous potato doughnuts
Ana Patty’s croissant dough in the works

Cucumber and Tomato Trellising

After finally getting some tomato and cucumber starts planted in greenhouses, it was time to begin the ongoing task of trellising.

The vast majority of our trellising is done with twine, and when possible, we reuse the same twine year after year. After cleaning out greenhouses at the end of the season, we stash away boxes of twine wound around special hangers.












In smaller greenhouses and greenhouses planted with cucumbers, twine hangers are placed on lateral wires strung down the length of the greenhouses.














Hanging twine in taller greenhouses requires a specialized tool (a piece of bamboo) to reach up to top wires.














Gathering Together Farm grows its entire cucumber crop inside greenhouses, and the elaborate trellising system makes the harvest infinitely faster and easier than rummaging through prickly foliage looking for camouflaged fruits on the ground. The fruits also turn out to be much more attractive and marketable. Later on during the summer, the crew will pass through this greenhouse almost every day, twisting off a fat cucumber from each vine as it hangs suspended from the twine trellising.

The cucumber trellising system starts with a crew member affixing a plant clip (from Hydro-Gardens) around the base of each cucumber stem and clipping it onto a single line (one twine per plant).














Then a crew member gently winds the twine around the stem a few times.

A little slack is left in the line, so it’s flexible enough to move but won’t let the plants fall as they get heavier.

Every two to three weeks, the crew will return to this house and secure the growing vines to their individual lines by continuing to wind the stems up and around the twine.

Larger greenhouses planted with tomatoes, get an independent trellising infrastructure because the tremendous weight of the growing plants and fruits could potentially collapse the entire greenhouse if it was suspended by the greenhouse frame alone.

T posts are driven into the ground at six foot intervals (two plants between each post).

Top bars on the T posts are strung with wires down the length of the greenhouse.














The ends of the lines are braced with serious wooden posts and anchors. The crew adds additional horizontal supports to keep the lines from flopping over to one side or the other when they’re fully loaded.

Later, a crew member ties a loose knot with the twine around the base of each tomato plant…

…and gently winds the twine around the stem up to the top.














Each tomato plant will eventually have two leaders, so an extra twine is hung next to each plant to support the additional branch in the future.

Trellising cucumbers and tomatoes is incredibly time consuming, and the infrastructure (especially the T post system) is quite expensive. Doing it well, however, leads to healthier plants, higher yields, better quality fruit, and an easier harvest.

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for April 24-27

Productivity is really ramping up on the farm right now. If you come out for a meal and a (self-guided, walking) tour, you’re likely to see the crew both planting and harvesting various crops. The nicer weather has allowed us to work up the ground up in drier areas, but the sudden heat can also stress small plants, so our irrigation team is working hard to keep things moist. The kales and mustards are starting to bloom, so the fields are showing more color than the winter’s drab brown and muted green. Even Sally’s horses are kicking up their heels in their nearby pasture.


The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

to start:

duck liver terrine with baguette and mustard
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with smoked speck, pear, and pumpkin seed vinaigrette
carrot soup with artisan bread
sorrel soup with artisan bread


nettle/goat cheese/tomato/mozzarella
italian sausage/tomato/mozzarella



agnolotti with rutabaga and pea shoots
pork ragú with orecchiette
green garlic risotto with watercress
three cheese bread pudding on beets and kale
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns
lamb sausage with white bean ragú
old fashioned fresh-squeezed lemonade
roasting a little garlic in the earth oven
roasted garlic
garnish on the duck liver terrine plate
sorrel soup
carrot soup
nettles for pizza
duck/collards/tomato/mozzarella pizza
a couple slices of italian sausage/tomato/mozzarella pizza
fresh agnolotti
pork ragú with orecchiette
three cheese bread pudding on beets with kale (recommended by Chef JC)


GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns (back left: agnolotti with rutabaga and pea shoots back right: green garlic risotto with watercress)
base for the lamb sausage dish
lamb sausage with white bean ragú