Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Tigard-area farmers go back to basics

Leah and Will Smith weren't farmers until March, when they rented a property that came with alpacas.


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Smiths currently have four alpacas, two of which are expecting babies sometime in August.Rock music from the 1980s pounds the speakers inside a small shelter near several lambs. Apparently, it keeps away predators like cougars and coyotes. It’s always that radio station, all the time, and since Leah and Will Smith moved to their new farm property in March, none of their animals have been compromised by wild critters.

When the couple’s apartment lease was ending earlier this year, they wondered if maybe a nice house should be in the works. But, to fit within their budget, they found they’d likely have to sacrifice a yard. For the sake of their 6-year-old son, Tanner, this was out of the question. After some digging,

Leah found an ad for their Tigard home on Craigslist and was sold after a conversation with the landlady. In addition to a barn and numerous fruit trees, the rental came with two alpacas — a perfect start for a young family wanting to get back to the earth.

“We wanted to be less reliant on going to the grocery store. Chemicals scare me. We don’t even use chemicals in our house,” Leah said. “It scares me to know that what I’m buying at the grocery store is not the best thing I could put in my body for what we could afford to eat. This way, we can afford it. It’s here, and it will be here every year.”

Smith Family Homestead & Boutique is located at 16530 S.W. 147th Ave in Tigard.

The store is open from about 3 p.m. on Friday, and from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekend.

If you'd like to visit during other hours, or show up and Leah happens to be running an errand, call her at 949-338-7127.

To learn more, visit their Facebook page.

After adding two more alpacas, dozens of chickens, two dogs, barn cats and seven lambs so far, the Smiths are well on their way to having a full-blown farm operation. They’re maintaining the fruit trees that were planted by the home’s owner, but have added some gardens of their own. By the time everything is ripe, the couple hopes to be able to sell produce at their farm store, Smith Family Homestead & Boutique, which opened last Saturday.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Leah Smith stands in her recently opened store, Smith Family Homestead & Boutique. The store features products from 26 vendors across the Pacific Northwest.

The store encompasses a shed to the side of the house that the past occupants used for a garage, giving the Smiths plenty of cleaning to do before it could be functional. But, Leah was determined. She crafted the idea about a month ago, when trying to think of work she could do from home while Will works as a game tester. Their son has a severe form of asthma, so when Leah worked in the past, she missed a lot of time to stay home with him and drive him to various doctor’s appointments at Oregon Health and Science University.

The couple realized having the store could be a way to make enough extra money so Leah wouldn’t have to worry about working elsewhere. One Facebook blast and 26 vendors later, the store is up and running. Selling everything from alpaca fleece to homemade soaps to jewelry to rugs, the space is lined with hand-crafted goods made by people all across the Pacific Northwest. There are even a couple paintings by Tanner, which are selling for $5 and good enough that nobody would question it if told they were modern art made by a professional.

“In the store, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. I wanted it to be that way,” said Leah. “We really just want to help other people succeed. As a byproduct of that, if we happen to succeed, that would be awesome.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Before moving to their current farm property in March, the Smiths had been living in an apartment. Now, they're learning how to take care of alpacas, chickens and lambs.Because of this, Leah has learned the stories of every one of her 26 vendors. She knows what the products are and how they were produced, so she can answer any questions potential buyers might have. She knows the terrariums in the corner prefer to be called “earth bubbles” by their creator and the rugs under the table were made from Pendleton Woolen Mills scraps. She knows what ingredients make up the homemade lip balm she sells and the signs on the wall were made from repurposed materials.

“I think it’s everyone supporting everyone,” said Will. “Maintaining momentum, that’s all it is. We started the snowball down the hill but don’t want it to get too big.”

Throughout the summer, the couple plans to offer produce and farm fresh eggs, and by fall is hoping to have “Cider Saturdays,” with cider pressed from apples picked from their own apple orchard. They’ve already created a community around their property by pulling in friends and neighbors to help and participate. Even Tanner likes to brag about the farm to his kindergarten friends.

“He has a girl in his class that he has a huge crush on,” said Leah. “His little pickup line for her was, ‘You should come over because we can get fruit off the trees anytime and eat it, and we don’t even have to ask permission.’”

While the couple whole-heartedly agrees that moving to the farm was the right choice for them, they are realistic about the challenges they’ve faced and will face as it continues to grow. Both Leah and Will grew up in California, neither one from farming families. Before their current home, they’d been living in an apartment. Their knowledge base for this kind of work was minimal, and initially a lot of doubt and skepticism was aimed in their direction when they told loved ones of their plan. Not only did they start with limited knowledge, the couple’s young ages (Leah is 26, and Will is 31), didn’t invoke anymore confidence in the naysayers.

“I think a lot of people doubted it, parents included. They were like ‘Really, you want a farm? No,’” said Leah. “Since it is just a rental, if it doesn’t work out, it’s OK. I’d rather try and fail than not try. We’ve learned so much just since living here.”

“It’s a better life,” added Will. “I like knowing that we’re a little bit more in charge of our lives. That’s nice to me.”

By next year, the Smiths are hoping to be in the process of buying the property and committing to this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. For now, they’ll keep plugging away at a more sustainable and well-balanced life, all while keeping Google at the ready when questions arise.



Local Weather

Fair

58°F

Tigard

Fair

Humidity: 100%

Wind: 0 mph

  • 23 Sep 2014

    AM Showers 73°F 61°F

  • 24 Sep 2014

    Showers 71°F 57°F