Just outside of the bustling city of Portland, Sun Love Farm is tucked away in the Oregon City countryside. Along with photographer Shawn Linehan we had the pleasure of joining farm owner Melissa Streng and her crew to capture the beauty of a Friday morning harvest bustle in late August.
Scroll on to learn more about the Sun Love Farm story, their incredible flexible CSA program, and see some of the gorgeous moments captured by Shawn!
Meet the Farmers
Melissa Streng started farming during the summers while going to school, and it didn't take too long before she realized that for her, farming was much more than just a summer job. From Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA, to Riverhill Farm in California, and finally to Dancing Roots Farm in Corbett, Oregon, she found her way to the Pacific Northwest and started Sun Love in Oregon City 9 years ago.
The 7-acre parcel that Melissa and her partner Dave purchased in Oregon City is complete with rich growing fields, fruit trees, and wooded areas. Together they are raising their two children while Melissa runs the farm and Dave runs his own business as well.
Melissa is joined by Farm Manager, Gary Strokos, who loves growing healthy food for the community and brings with him a wealth of farming knowledge. Together with this season's crew, including Justis, Nate, and others, this small team grows an incredibly diverse offering of fresh produce. See shots of Sun Love farmers Melissa and Gary below.
Sun Love Farm is Certified Naturally Grown and employs management practices that go beyond organic. There are no chemical pesticides or fertilizers used on the farm, crop rotation combined with cover cropping allows land to rest, and they grow all open-pollinated varieties which supports a healthy seed industry as well as a healthy farm.
Melissa says it's definitely easier to farm this way when your neighbors are also practicing sustainable methods, but she has one field that shares a property line with a larger conventional farm and she says the pest pressure there is way worse. But Sun Love uses floating row cover among other strategies to help protect her crops from insect pests.
She also mentioned that this season she's been using a Dyson vacuum to suck up cucumber beetles from inside the cucurbit flowers with great success! In coming seasons, Melissa is hoping to lease more land nearby to be able to grow more and reach a comfortable scale, but also to be able to allow land to rest more as well.
High Quality Produce
Sun Love grows a wide variety of produce, including many specialty varieties beyond what you'd find at the grocery store. There's not just basil, there's also purple Thai basil; not just cherry tomatoes, but ripe rich ground cherries; not just zucchini, but bright yellow zucchini as well. Take a look at some of the gorgeous produce they grow below!
Sustainable Farming for Farmers
In the same way that Melissa's crop growing practices go beyond just farming organically, she's constantly asking herself how to cultivate the most sustainable farming jobs for her team members as well. Especially as a mother, ensuring that there is a work life balance built into the farm structure is essential to the farm's sustainability.
And as a business owner, she's also asking questions around how to significantly increase wages, offer health insurance, and make working on a farm a truly sustainable livelihood for all involved.
Melissa says she's been able to offer more and more each year and is proud of what they're able to offer now, but she's excited to work with fellow farmers and small business owners to come up with creative and collective solutions.
Sun Love CSA!
Sun Love Farm offers a robust CSA program, complete with options for home delivery, farm pick-up, and pick-up at the Oregon City Farmers Market. They also accept SNAP which means that you can get a Sun Love CSA for 50% off with Double Up Food Bucks! Home delivery is also free for folks paying with SNAP, and their delivery area ranges from Oregon City, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge, Gladstone, Happy Valley, Clackamas, West Linn, & Southeast Portland.
Their CSA is also available bi-weekly, which is perfect for smaller households or anyone new to the CSA concept and just looking to try it out! Melissa asked her members if they preferred pre-packed CSA boxes or a more choose-your-own market-style CSA, and she said the vast majority of folks preferred the convenience of a pre-packed box. However, they do still offer a Market Share style CSA where members pick their produce at market.
Melissa herself says, "I think our shares are awesome!" She explained that they are very member-focused, very flexible, and lean heavier on staple items for everyday cooking, sprinkling in specialty produce throughout the season. Learn more about Sun Love's CSA program here https://sunlovefarm.com/deliver-to-your-door-csa/ and follow them on Instagram at @sunlovefarm.