Earl Renfrow has an ambitious goal: to grow millions of pounds
of food on his 23-acre Rainier-area farm using all natural
And he wants to offer shares of his bounty to the community and
teach others how it’s done.
Renfrow, the founder of the nonprofit Earth Doctors Community,
is opening up his property at 24215 Beaver Falls Road as a
community supported agriculture farm, or CSA.
“I’m simply building my version of paradise,” he said.
The farm is across the street from the old Delena school, about
seven miles west of Rainier on Highway 30. Renfrow is planting
broccoli, red beans, strawberries, mushrooms, peas and other crops.
Some of the fruits and vegetables are planted around fish ponds,
which Renfrow is stocking with hundreds of koi, tilapia, trout and
CSA farms were developed in the mid-1980s as a way for growers
to market their products, according to LocalHarvest.org, a
family-farm advocacy group. Farmers sell shares of produce to
consumers, who then have better access to locally grown food. About
4,000 CSA farms are operating nationwide, and the number is
growing, according to LocalHarvest.
A former California artist and photographer, Renfrow closed his
studio in 1985 and moved to Oregon with dreams of entering the
sustainable food industry. He bought his plot a few years later and
started a business, Oregon’s Best Foods, selling mushrooms, fruits
and vegetables to high-end restaurants, mostly in the Portland
About five years ago, Renfrow said he decided to try something
new, and the idea for Earth Doctors was born. However, he suffered
two car accidents within a year needed a few years to recover
Last month, he started digging the fish ponds, which are the key
components to sustainable farming, Renfrow said. Using a process
known as aquaponics, the wastes and nutrients from the ponds are
filtered out as nutrients for the surrounding plants. The farm is
free of pesticides and chemicals, he said.
“What I’m doing is making farming an art, not a science,”
Renfrow said he’ll charge a $20 annual membership fees for the
CSA for individuals and $50 for families of four or more children.
Members can pick their own food at half the market price. People
who can’t afford food can pick whatever they want and keep 10
percent of their haul, free of charge, he said.
Members aren’t required to do work, but it’s the best way for
them to get food and saves labor costs, Renfrow said.
Renfrow added that he’s looking for families with children under
the age of 6. The young ones are the most receptive to learning his
unique growing techniques, he said. Interested people can call
He said he’ll sell the remainder of the food to restaurants,
mostly in the Portland area.
Renfrow said he also plans to produce videos of his farming
techniques, both online and on DVDs, to educate people about
sustainable farming. A professional photographer, Renfrow has
attached 3-D camera to a bicycle helmet, allowing him to get
footage as he works.
Renfrow traces his heritage to the Cherokee Indian tribe, and he
said he hopes his farm will become a place to honor his native
“What I’ve developed is a sacred place that produces the most
nutritious food possible.”