Back in my ski bum days, there used to be a popular bumper sticker that read, “My drinking team has a skiing problem”.
Well in the case of Worthy Brewing this spring, their brewery has a farming problem.
Only it’s not a problem at all. It’s hoping to point people toward a solution.
But how the heck did a brewery end up with a farm?
“Good question!” says Rick Martinson, Executive Director of the Worthy Garden Club. “This is Roger Worthington, that owns the brewery and is the president of the Garden Club. That’s kind of his vision.
“He wanted to create a space where people could come to Central Oregon, grab something to eat and have a good beer, but also learn about all sorts of different things,” Rick continued. “He wanted to create an experience for people coming not just a place to grab a beer and sit down and have a burger.”
Before this was a farm, it was a great place to grow the key ingredient in that beer.
“The area outside the brewery was originally growing hops and then Roger, the owner of the brewery, he had the vision to grow local produce. So it goes straight into the pub’s kitchen,” said Maddie Steen, the farm director.
That’s right. What gets grown here is sent straight into the kitchen to be used in specials in the restaurant. A true farm to brewery experience. But getting here didn’t just take seed and sprout overnight.
“We had to add in all the soil, set up the irrigation, digging pipes, a lot of planting and planning. Then partnering with local organizations — letting them know this is a new project. We’re growing food. How can we reach the most community members, build partnerships?”
This farm is becoming a place for people who want to be more connected with how our food comes to be and perhaps even learn how to grow their own food and cut out the middle man.
“Thing’s have been going really well and the main goals are, a) provide food for the pub and, two, it’s also a demonstration and educational garden,” Maddie said. “So we’re hosting various workshops such as how to grow food in Central Oregon, tomato care, seed saving, building a compost pile.
“We’re demonstrating regenerative growing practices, so basically organic sustainable practices, building soil, and not having to use as many inputs,” she added.
The things is, this job sounds a lot like one that would require you needing to like weeding.
“Yeah! You have to like being outside and weeding, even getting your hands dirty. Luckily, I love that so it’s working out well,” Maddie says.
The farm is filling more immediate needs, but Rick says the Garden Club is actually keeping its focus on the big picture and its eyes on the horizon.
“So, we’re working with researchers from Oregon State on carbon storage and sequestration work, on biodiversity issues, on large predators and trophic Cascade research and various things all around the western U.S.,” Rick said. “We’re also expanding into a partnership with OSU Cascades and the National Park Service creating kind of a hub for education and native plant propagation to work on biodiversity issues region-wide.”
So it’s farm to brewery but also brewery to the planet. Just the kind of thing that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.
“I wanna get up and start working on it,” Rick said. “I get up usually around five or six and start working immediately. And it’s fun stuff. I’m just having a blast with it.”