Food Stories: Chris Welling, Dolan Creek Farm
Visit Chris Welling at her farm in Boring, Oregon, and you are likely to find her in her big garden wearing a large sunhat and gardening gloves. She tends a huge organic garden that grows everything from tomatoes to artichokes to green beans and pumpkins. Chris will always break off or pick something fresh and say “Here, taste this.” Or “Have you ever tried…”? For Chris, getting people to taste real food has been her mission.
I buy a lot of my food from her farm in Boring, Oregon, called Dolan Creek Farm. Chris’ husband’s parents first bought the farm and then Chris and Kirk took over the farm when they were married. I buy their beef, chicken, eggs, fruits and vegetables (their friend sells pork to me). They do not use pesticides or genetically modified seeds, they fertilize with manure from their chickens, cows and other animals, and have raised their animals on grass, not grain, for decades. I have tried new things, like quince and Concord grapes, thanks to buying whatever Chris was offering that day. I met with Chris for this interview. She is a passionate farmer who has practiced organic farming methods long before they were considered important or in fashion.
chezlarae: What prompted you to farm with organic and free-range practices?
Chris Welling: I wanted something that tasted good. Food sometimes looks like food, but is grown moreso to be able to ship and sit on shelves a long time. It is not grown for taste. When cornfed beef was popular I thought the cows looked bloaty. I saw that they didn’t really want corn, they wanted to eat grass. Corn and antibiotics aren’t natural for cows. Cows are stressed and that is what we are eating. With fruits and vegetables too I saw that we were modifying them, breaking them down and putting them back together, for longer shelf life, but we forgot about the taste.
chezlarae: What do you love most about farming?
Chris Welling: The connection I have to the land, I love when people “get it” – eating without pesticides, eating something because it tastes good, eating what is in season. There is something peaceful about listening to cows chewing, turkeys being real turkeys, and goats eating blackberries.
chezlarae: Can you share your favorite recipe for readers?
Chris Welling: I don’t really use recipes (laughs). I just cook with whatever I’ve got around. I grow most of my own food and preserve it or freeze it (see picture below of her goal-worthy pantry). I do like Bob’s Red Mill and Dave’s Killer Bread.
chezlarae: What makes you hopeful?
Chris Welling: My daughter is thinking about running the farm. (Her daughter, Renae, is married with two kids and has recently taken small farm classes at Oregon State University Extension in Hood River). I like seeing younger people in their 20’s and 30’s interested in farming. Just know it is hard work and oftentimes not profitable.
I asked her daughter Renae why she is interested in farming.
Renae: I would love to continue my mom’s philosophy of growing quality food but on a small scale. To provide a place where people love to come, touch, taste, especially kids. Hang onto the farm for at least my kids’ generation. Maybe one of them would be interested in keeping it, being a farmer. Plus, I want my grandkids to have the ability to roam. So many kids don’t and love that ours do.
Chris also believes in the Safe Seed Initiative (see picture below of Chris’ beautiful seeds). She is a seed saver because she loves knowing that plant lines can be preserved and reproduced. A lot of seeds can not reproduce due to genetics. Some seed companies make it illegal to save seed and reuse the following season. Seeds are so important to continued food production from year to year. Not too long ago everyone saved seed. One company Chris likes is Wild Garden Seed.
To read more about farming and female farmers, please read this link that Chris recommends “Picturing Female Farmers” by Rebekah Denn. To order beef, eggs, produce and more from Chris, contact her via email at: dolancreekfarm @ hotmail. com