Harcombe Farm – Paul and Nonie

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Welcome to Carts and Tools new “Local and Not So Local Farm” articles. Here we highlight small farmers that are living their dreams and we’ve enlisted the assistance of Rebecca Barnhart to help capture their stories in words and images. If you know of someone we should be writing about, please let us know.

Paul and Nonie Harcombe in front of their corn field at Harcombe Farm

Retirement doesn’t always mean retiring

For many people, entering retirement means settling into a slower pace of life. If you’re lucky you will enjoy warm weather, the abundance of friends and family, and finally have some time for all those activities you have put off in lieu of the daily grind.

Paul Harcombe and his wife Nonie wanted much the same. As retired educators from Rice University in Houston, TX, they wanted to devote their time to something they loved, so the couple bought a 12-acre wheat farm in the heart of the Willamette River bottom here in Oregon.

Paul, a beanstalk of a man, stands at 6 feet 6 inches and wears a large straw hat that partially covers his round glasses. His look is one of a professor turned farmer. He sums up the his love for farming, saying

I like being outside, I like physical work and I like that the work is a challenge.”

Although Harcombe remembers occasionally helping out at his mother’s family wheat farm here in the Willamette Valley, neither he nor his wife Nonie grew up with a hoe in hand.

This didn’t stop Paul and Nonie one bit. The need to find a base crop that could be protected and isolated on their property just 10 miles outside of Corvallis, coupled with Harcombe’s great affection for corn bread enticed them to lay down the first corn seedlings in 2009. In addition to the Flint corn grown only for seed, their main crops included beans, squash, wheat, and barley.

Since then business has been humming. They not only sell the flint corn, beans and squash seedlings through Carol Deppe through Fertile Valley Seeds, but they also distribute their hand-milled grains through Greenwillow Grains. Even more, they sell lambs, chickens and turkeys directly from Harcombe Farms.

Sustainability is a big part of Harcombe Farms

Part of the Harcombe farm’s philosophy is that in order to be functional it should be sustainable, subsistent and local.

“We are 80 percent self-sustaining as a family and it’s very important to us,”

Walking around his property he points out the rows of solar panels on their home’s slanted rooftop, “We manage to pick up half our electric bill with these too” says Harcombe.

The only large tractor uses bio-diesel and even though Harcombe Farms are not certified organic, they are completely free of herbicides and pesticides, using a a hand wheel hoe for weed removal.

Part 2, the Nefarious Bindweed

Read part II of Rebecca’s article here where you will meet Paul’s nemesis, bindweed, and learn how a couple of tools from us, Carts and Tools are working for Paul and Nonie.


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