Farm Lunch














Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on the farm, the entire crew gathers and eats a hot lunch prepared in the farm kitchen. A tradition that has been carried on since the early days of Gathering Together Farm (25 years ago), farm lunch brings together the office staff, the field crew, the seed crew, the folks working in the packing shed, the mechanics, and everyone else laboring away in far-flung corners of the farm.

The meal itself consists of a hearty, hot main course usually with a side of salad or vegetables fresh from the fields. It’s not fancy or beautifully arranged, but it is filling and healthy and real.














Paula (above left) cooks farm lunch on Mondays, and Mary (above right) cooks farm lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays. Both Paula and Mary have restaurant/catering experience, so cooking for a crowd is something they know well. Paula also works in the greenhouse (seeding and grafting tomatoes), but Mary’s only job on the farm is to cook for the crew, and it is indeed a big job. Each woman averages a seven-hour shift per day dedicated entirely to baking snack, cooking lunch, and cleaning up, plus additional time spent shopping and meal planning.

When the crew members come in from the fields for lunch, they are HUNGRY. In the summer, the field crew generally starts work at 6 AM and stays until 7:30 PM or later. After all that planting, picking, bunching, weeding, walking, lifting, trellising, and organizing, they need to refuel with a whole lot of calories. During the height of the season, as many as 50 people are working on the farm in various different areas, so Paula and Mary need to make an enormous amount of food. Mary calculates the day’s food needs by multiplying the total number of folks out working by 1 1/2 times standard catering portion. Often times, she or Paula will cook up a giant quantity of saucy meats and vegetables (to be served over rice or potatoes) in a cauldron-like vessel that covers no less than four burners on an industrial stove.

In addition to lunch three times per week, the cooks also provide snack every work day in the form of something sweet (like these scones) to go along with hot coffee during a mid-morning break.

On days when the farm stand restaurant is closed, a buffet-style spread is set up in the “Garden Room” (the walled in porch dining area of the farm stand), but usually, the food is laid out in the dark interior of the packing shed.

Salad is almost always a part of farm lunch.

Paula and Mary are given free reign to cook whatever they choose, but both are extremely conscientious about sticking to a budget. Feeding 25 to 50 people three times a week can get expensive quickly, especially when attempting to create a nutritious meal out of high-quality ingredients. The farm lunch cooks take advantage of the wealth of produce available direct from the farm itself, but they also try to utilize less expensive cuts of good meats and extraneous odds and ends found in the freezer that aren’t likely to be used up by the farm stand restaurant chefs. Paula and Mary often embellish a mass-produced pot of soup or stew with crunchy, spicy, sweet, or savory extras like nuts and seeds, raisins, chutney, toasted coconut, salsa, or other condiments.














At about 1 PM, the cook on duty rings the lunch bell, calling in the crew.

While many workers are out of earshot when the bell rings, it doesn’t take long for the tasks of the moment to be set aside and the crew to filter into the packing shed. The crew members wash mud off their hands, stomp mud off boots, and join the line of folks waiting to serve themselves.

Plates are piled high with food, cups are filled with cold water or hot coffee, and then the crew settles down into tightly packed picnic tables.

The GTF staff eats outside no matter the weather. On rare nice days in winter and spring, the picnic tables are arranged in full sun, but usually, the crew enjoys a brief break under cover out of the rain in winter or in the shade during the summer.

The conversations start off slowly as everyone is first focused intently on eating, but usually around mid-meal, the banter begins. Often times there’s chatter about the work: which vegetables are available that week, where to fertilize, what fields to prep next, but the crew members also open up to each other about families, weekend activities, and the places from where they originate: small towns in southern Mexico, New Hampshire, Philomath, or elsewhere.

In my own experience, I know the feeling of waking up at 5:00 AM in August, sleep-deprived and bone-weary after putting in 70+ hours of labor for weeks on end, and thinking to myself, ‘What am I going to make for lunch?’ Those three days a week when I could count on having a hot, nutritious meal without any extra effort or expense on my part were deeply comforting. Because I was dedicating so much of my mental and physical capacity toward working for the success of the farm, it was sometimes hard to appreciate the time and energy put out on my behalf, but looking back, I can say that farm lunch was a true blessing.

Paula, Mary, and Rose (human resources, customer service, and marketing manager) have sat down with John and Sally (farm owners) in the past to discuss the financial costs of farm lunch and the intangible benefits. They opened a dialogue about whether this tradition was really worth the expense, and John and Sally’s answer was an unequivocal “yes”. While the farm has grown and the ritual isn’t quite as intimate as sitting around John and Sally’s kitchen table like in the “old days”, the communion is still ever present and the sustenance provided allows the crew to keep on truckin’ out there. John and Sally recognize that they are asking for a monumental effort of the crew, and farm lunch is just one of the ways they can show their appreciation for that kind of dedication even as they pinch pennies in other areas of the operation. In their minds, it IS worth it.

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for March 29-30

How about that purple sprouting broccoli, huh? We have bunches of it along with many other types of raab and salad mix for sale in the farm stand, and we’ll have more at farmers’ markets this weekend (Portland, Corvallis, Newport, and Hillsdale on Sunday). If you’d like to grow your own purple sprouting broccoli, you can get seed from Territorial Seed CompanyJohnny’s Selected Seed, or Osborne Seed Company.

The farm stand and restaurant will open with our spring hours starting next week: TUESDAY through SATURDAY–open 9 to 5 with lunch 11 to 2 and Saturday breakfast from 9 to 2. Plus THURSDAY and FRIDAY dinners 5:30 to 8:45. While we will gladly serve walk-ins at dinner if we have room, we often fill up, so reservations are highly recommended.

roasted shallot fitters in the fryer

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

to start:

lava lake lamb pâté with sour cherry mostarda
brie with baguette
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with roasted shallot fritter, shaved apple, and blue cheese vinaigrette
creamy beet soup with artisan bread
potato, leek, and ham soup with artisan bread

GTF salad

Lava Lake lamb pâté with sour cherry mostarda

creamy beet soup








house pepperoni/tomato/mozzarella

cheese pizza


herbal or black iced tea
organic drip coffee
french press organic coffee
organic lemonade
hot tea
Izze soda
Spindrift Cellars 2009 chardonnay
Lumos 2010 pinot gris
Pheasant Court Winery 2008 maréchal foch
Tyee Wine Cellars 2008 pinot noir
Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Green Lakes Organic Ale

cappellacci in the works


cappellacci with smoked belly and leeks



cappellacci with smoked belly and leeks
semolina gnocchi with roasted tomatoes and mozzarella
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
seafood risotto with rockfish and clams
stuffed Mosiac Farm pork loin with golden raisins and kale

stuffed Mosiac Farm pork loin with golden raisins and kale

creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg

ham bits

ham and swiss on croissant dough

unbaked ham and swiss croissants

Views Around the Farm Stand + Menu for March 23

Boy were we glad to see the sun come out today. Sally, John, and several crew members were up until the wee hours of Thursday morning sloughing snow off greenhouses, and the whole farm was white for most of two days. Maybe all the bad weather is behind us, and we are now headed for a warmer, gentler spring.

grilled pâté with baguette

to start:

salumi and cheese platter
grilled pâté with baguette
tripe gratinata with peppers and bacon
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette
spiced carrot soup with artisan bread
potato, leek, and bacon soup with artisan bread


tripe gratinata with peppers and bacon

GTF salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette

spiced carrot soup with artisan bread

potato, leek, and bacon soup with artisan bread

lots of local goods for sale in the farm store



pepperoni/pickled peppers/tomato/mozzarella
zucchini/caramelized onion/tomato/mozzarella

cannelloni with beets and chicories


duo of agnolotti
Mosaic Farm pork ragú over spaghetti
cannelloni with beets and chicories
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
brodetto of clams and rockfish with aioli
duck breast with polenta and leeks with sour cherry mostarda

brodetto of clams and rockfish with aioli

duck breast with polenta and leeks with sour cherry mostarda

a specially requested poached egg over grilled leeks

a sneak peak at Ana Patty’s Saturday breakfast offerings with ham and blue cheese croissants in the background.

fresh squeezed orange juice for Saturday breakfast

Views Around the Farm Stand + Menu for March 15-16

 housemade fresh pasta

Thanks to those who braved the weather and came out for lunch today. We apologize for the lake in the parking lot, but we hope you enjoyed your meals. We’re all hoping the floodwaters recede as soon as possible.

(Update: The river is down significantly as of Friday morning, so we are definitely open for business.)

spaghettini of mussels and tomato

The Menu for March 15 and 16 (may vary depending on availability)

to start:

salumi and cheese platter
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with pears, almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette
watercress soup with artisan bread
beet and red cabbage soup with artisan bread

toasted almonds for salads

JC cuts into his stash of charcuterie.

housemade coppa


pepperoni/pickled peppers/tomato/mozzarella
MF bacon/leek/tomato/mozzarella
collards/caramelized shallot/tomato/mozzarella

We get eggs from Provenance Farm, which is literally just across the street.

creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg

JC celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with corned ham with cabbage and potato.


agnolotti with basil and goat cheese
spaghettini of mussels and tomato
corned ham with cabbage and potato
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
brodetto of clams and rockfish

Ana Patty rolls out danish dough. We did the math today and decided the finished product has no fewer than 135 layers of butter and dough. (Croissants have 180 layers!)

The dark flecks in the danish dough are cardamom.

honey-orange glaze for the morning buns

sweetness for the morning buns

soon-to-be morning buns

How To Graft Tomatoes (GTF Method)

Gathering Together Farm has been growing a significant portion of its tomato crop in greenhouses for over 15 years. Because of the limited space available under cover, the greenhouse rotation schedule has been less than ideal, making it necessary to plant tomatoes in the same houses more frequently than recommended. Over the years, the soil in particular greenhouses began to harbor various diseases that were stunting the growth and production of the tomato plants grown under cover. It became apparent that something needed to change if the farm was going to continue to plant tomatoes in existing greenhouses. The solution was grafting. Now, about 70-80% of the Gathering Together Farm tomato crop comes off grafted plants.

In essence, grafting tomatoes lets farmers reap the yield off of the tomato variety of their choice, but that scion is grown on highly disease resistant rootstocks. The result is more vigorous plants, a larger yield of higher quality fruits, and a longer period of productivity. Tomato grafting has been practiced for decades by growers who have been planting tomatoes in the same ground year after year because of limited space for necessary crop rotation.

At Gathering Together Farm, Paula has been grafting tomatoes for four years, and at this point, she has a fairly high success rate, about 90-95%. Paula and Joelene learned the art of grafting tomatoes from reading the literature online and in print, experimenting, and collaborating with Alice at Log House Plants, who was figuring out grafting methods around the same time.

To start off, ‘Maxifort‘ rootstock from Johnny’s Selected Seeds are seeded into 2.5″ pots, and all the other varieties of tomato scion are seeded into flats with 98 cells (“100s”). Even though the seed is relatively expensive, Gathering Together Farm over-seeds the rootstock by about 40% to account for an 80% germination rate and the fact that some rootstock plants will be unsuitable for grafting. Trays of seeded pots and flats are placed into a dark, humid chamber heated to about 85°.

The sprouting chamber is a farm-made structure with grated shelving underlain with rubber hoses through which warm water flows from an electric water heater. The sides and doors are plastic with velcro closures.














Starting four days after seeding, Joelene pulls every tray of pots seeded with rootstock out of the hot chamber and examines each pot for any signs of above-ground sprouting. If even the slightest bit of white tendril is showing, she pulls the pot and joins it with other sprouted tomatoes on a warmed table in the greenhouse. She sorts the new tomato seedlings daily until it becomes apparent than anything left is never going to sprout (up to two weeks after seeding). Grouping seedlings in like-staged trays will allow Paula to more easily match rootstock and scion at the exact same stem size.

The scion varieties generally sprout at about the same time, so Joelene pulls them out of the sprouting chamber when she sees any above-ground growth.

Tomato starts grow on heated tables for about three weeks.

There’s some debate among the grafting team about whether or not the rootstock plants should be placed under lights after seedlings are pulled from the sprouting chamber. At this time, it is believed that the lights may stunt the elongation of the stems, so the rootstock plants are allowed to grow on warmed tables without lights while scion plants do grow under lights.

It is critical when grafting for the stems of the rootstock plants and the stems of the scion plants to be the same diameter. If it seems like the rootstock or the scion is outpacing the other’s growth, Paula will move trays off the warming tables to slow growth. Sometimes she will even move trays to the ground in the shade if she needs to let the plant parts match catch up.

Here’s what the ‘Maxifort’ rootstock looks like when it’s ready for grafting. Ideally, the rootstock plants will have straight stems, but sometimes they don’t. Some bent-stemmed rootstock plants can be used for grafting, but really crooked ones or plants with the cotyledons too close to the soil surface are discarded.

The day before she plans to graft, Paula selects rootstock plants that will match up with the scion.

She waters the rootstock well because they can’t be watered again directly for a couple weeks.

She puts the rootstock under lights in a last ditch effort to encourage the stems to grow as straight as possible.

Paula moves the scion into a dark area to slow photosynthesis so that the plants are as dormant as possible when grafting.

For grafting, Paula splits these double edge razor blades (from Fred Meyer) and uses one blade for two trays of grafts (64 plants) before discarding it.

These are 1.5mm and 2mm silicon tomato-grafting clips from Hydro Gardens.














First, she pinches the top of the rootstock and swiftly cuts the stem at a 45° angle. She must cut the stem at least an inch above the soil level, so that when the tomato start is transplanted into the ground, the scion stem will not touch the earth. She also cuts the stem below the cotyledons, so that the rootstock will not produce any foliage or fruit.

She discards the rootstock top.














Then she finds a matching scion plant and cuts its stem at a 45° angle.

This is a tray of mostly cut scion.














She fits the clip on the rootstock stem and then slides the scion in, matching up the 45° angles.














The line of symmetry of the clip should be perpendicular to the plane of the graft so that the clip is in contact with the rootstock and the scion equally.

If she’s grafting larger seedlings, Paula will sometimes cut off the cotelydons to decrease the weight of the scion and keep it from slumping over and putting extra pressure on the graft.

Each tray is marked with the date of the graft.

Paula heavily mists the newly grafted plants. The tray of pots is placed inside another solid plastic tray.

She mists the inside of the cover, tightly closes the top vents, and fits it tightly on the bottom tray, eliminating any airflow and preventing the plants from drying out. Gathering Together Farm purchased the covers from McConkey.

The post-graft healing “building” is a structure built inside the Gathering Together Farm propagation greenhouse. It’s divided into two chambers, a dark chamber and a shaded chamber. Each chamber has built-in shelving for trays of grafted tomatoes with lids. The dark chamber, is covered with black plastic under a reflective tarp (silver side out to prevent the absorption of heat). The shaded chamber is covered with white plastic under shade cloth with some insulation on the south side to keep it from getting too hot. The healing building offers a shelter with limited temperature fluctuations, limited sunlight (or no sunlight), and limited airflow that will allow the plants to heal slowly without attempting to photosynthesize until the graft is set.

The trays of newly grafted plants are placed on shelves in the dark chamber and left there for about three days.

After three days in the dark, tomato plants are moved onto shelves in the shaded chamber for a day, and then they stay in the same chamber with overhead lights for another day.

After a day under lights, the top vents on the cover are opened.

The next day, the covers are propped open to allow limited air to flow through the trays. A day or so later, the covers are taken off completely.

Eventually, the uncovered trays are moved out to unheated tables in the propagation greenhouse.

With each step after the trays come out of the dark, the plants are assessed, and if they seem to be wilting or looking sickly, Paula will move them back a step and wait another day to try again.

About a month after grafting, the joint between rootstock and scion will have healed, and the stems will have grown enough so that the clips will start to pop off or they can be removed by hand.

Grafted tomato plants will be transplanted into the ground a few weeks later. When planting, it is critical that the graft line remain well above ground, so that the scion will not root into the soil. The graft will remain visible for the full life of the plant.

This is the Gathering Together Farm tomato-grafting method for the 2012 season It is probably different than any of the tomato-grafting methods practiced around the world. As we continue to learn from our mistakes and experiment with new techniques, this process may change in little or perhaps big ways.

Gathering Together Farm grows and grafts the following varieties of tomatoes:

Red Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Big Beef F1 from Osborne Seed Company

New Girl F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Rebelski from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Big Dena F1 from Hydrogarden

Arbason F1 from Osborne Seed Company

Colored Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Cherokee Green from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Cherokee Purple from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Black Krim from Seed Saver’s Exchange

Pruden’s Purple from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Momotaro F1 from Territorial Seed Company

Rose from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Carolina Gold F1 from Osborne Seed Company

Brandywine Yellow from Osborne Seed Company

Copia from High Mowing Organic Seeds

Indigo Rose from Johnny’s Selected Seeds


San Marzano 168 F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Golden Rave F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds


Gathering Together Farm also grow the following tomato varieties ungrafted:

Red Determinate Tomatoes:

Siletz F1 from Seeds of Change

BHN 826 F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds


Mariana F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Viva Italia from Osborne Seed Company


Yellow Mini F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Black Cherry from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Sun Gold F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Favorita F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Sunpeach F1 from Osborne Seed Company