Seven generations: Fisher Ridge Farm celebrates 135 years

April 2015 Posted in People
Daughter Sara Scott  with Ralph and Sue Fisher. Ralph holds grandson Uriah, 3 months old.

Daughter Sara Scott with Ralph and Sue Fisher. Ralph holds grandson Uriah, 3 months old.

By Brenna Wiegand

Ralph Fisher doesn’t just know of his predecessors; every day he traverses the same 100 acres Joseph and Theresa Fisher settled in 1879, keeping alive the family tradition of raising livestock.

The two grand children that Ralph and Sue Fisher were blessed with in the last two years mark seven generations on the family farm.

The Fishers journeyed from Bohemia to Wisconsin in the 1860s and moved to Oregon 10 years later, some via the Oregon Trail.

Stories of times past are cherished – like how Ralph’s grandfather Eric raised chickens to carry his family through the Great Depression.

Fisher Ridge Farm blankets a pastoral ridge in the rolling Waldo Hills overlooking the valley from which Pudding River springs.

Sue has been a counselor at Silverton High School nearly 30 years. While she hops in the car and heads down the hill, Ralph takes up his daily rounds, tailed by the faithful – if not downright pesky – canine companion Eadie. He tends to the hogs, cattle, sheep and poultry, and grows his own feed.

Ralph grew up raising livestock, leaving the farm only to attend college.

“Doing chores, checking on the animals and just watching the whole process is a soothing type of atmosphere,” he said.

When Sue gets home, she changes her clothes and hunts down her husband.

“We figure out what we’ve got to do next,” Sue said. “It’s been 7 or 8 before we get in the last couple of weeks, especially with all the ewes lambing. It takes both of us, there’s no doubt about it, but Ralph and I like the livestock.

“The last two nights it has been absolutely clear sky, full moon, that crispness outside and you’re out there taking care of the animals – it’s pretty good therapy,” she added.

They raised Sara, Staci, Ryan and Erik on the farm. Kristianna (Silva) and Ryan Fisher have 2-year-old Troy; Sara (Fisher) and Brian Scott’s son Uriah was born just months ago.

All the while Fisher Ridge has produced pork, chicken, beef and lamb and has a customer base of about 200.

Brian and Sara recently joined the operation, working from their home in Portland to push business beyond solely word-of-mouth.

Fisher Ridge Farm
In the Fisher family since 1879

“We saw an opportunity to help mom and dad expand their market, and we are working to get them into markets, food shares and co-ops in the Portland area,” Sara said.

Last fall they launched a Facebook page and a website, allowing customers to order online. They got involved in Silverton’s Rooted in Food movement and joined Silverton Farmers Market. Since last year they’ve quadrupled their hog business, raising 80 to last year’s 20.

“Right now we can’t raise enough to keep up with the demand,” Ralph said, noting that bacon’s always the first thing to sell out on Saturdays.

To the surprise of his family, Ralph likes the weekly departure from an otherwise quiet, somewhat solitary life.

“The market helps you get out and meet the customers,” Ralph said. “You can be a smaller farm and be successful, directly involved with your customers and producing a product they’ll want.”

Adrianne Haring, a customer, said having a child who is gluten, egg and dairy free makes it tricky to find healthy and nutrious breakfast foods that don’t contain allergens.

“We love (Fisher Farm’s) breakfast sausage patties in the morning and over the last six months have also purchased bacon, pork roast and chicken breast and they’ve all been wonderful – way better in price and quality from similar items you find at the store,” Haring said.

What sets them apart, says Ralph, is that they don’t feed their heritage Duroc and Berkshire hogs corn or soy and use no growth enhancement aids.

Instead, they raise GMO-free wheat, oats and flax on the farm for their pasture-raised animals.

He further attributes the quality of their product to their processor, Century Oak Packing in Mount Angel.

Melissa Wagoner of Rooted in Food sees Oregon as a leader in a movement of people willing to seek out and pay for fresh, local, healthily grown food.

It is resulting in the rise of small family farms, whether they sell from a roadside stand, at the local farmers market or through urban food co-ops – not to mention what can be accomplished online.

The Fishers currently sell their products at Silverton Farmers Market, Silverton’s Local Motive Food Co-op and several  co-ops on Portland’s East side. They also supplement a few CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), allowing vegetable growers to offer a protein component to their subscribers.

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