People don’t generally think about cucumbers much unless they favor pickles, in all their forms.
The Ostrom family does think about them; it is their livelihood. Brian and Carmen Ostrom along with three of four sons are in the middle of preparing their pickling cucumbers for market.
Started on a plot of leased land on 62nd Ave., east of Keizer in rural Marion County six years ago, the family now cultivates 35 acres of cucumbers plus another 23 acres of pumpkins.
The Ostroms are a proud farming family. Though they had no farming experience, Brian and Carmen started their business with the optimism only farming engenders. Brian is an agronomist with Simplot in which he makes recommendations to farmers regarding fungicide, insecticides and other chemicals.
“I’m protecting the grower’s interest, essentially,” said Brian. “We go out and look at the fields, see what it looks like and what it needs.”
The Ostroms grow three varieties of cucumbers to satisfy the pickling needs of their end customers. They sell their goods to local farm retailers such as E.Z. Orchards and Jones Farm Produce.
They sell their pumpkins to the same type of outlets, the Ostroms also donate many to local organizations. Some are sold to local schools and day care facilities.
As if cukes and pumpkins weren’t enough, the family also grows and sells Christmas trees; at one time they had the largest tree lot in the Salem- Keizer area. After a hiatus, the Ostrom sons—Zach, Landon and Karsten—will again sell trees for the upcoming holiday season.
Farming takes lots of water. The ornamental pumpkin patch is interlaced with 16,000 feet of irrigation pipe, all laid by hand.
Besides their sons, the farm employs a handful of migrant workers, many who return year after year.
“We enjoy working with them,” said Carmen. “They enjoy working with us.” Brian buys the workers lunch each Friday, they sit down at a table in the barn with family members.
It is the same barn where Brian constructed a large walk-in cooler to hold product until it is ready to be processed.
Each year the Ostroms produce half a million pounds of cucumbers and more than 200,000 pounds of pumpkins.
When cucumbers are brought in from the field workers load them into a rotating cylinder for washing and then they are sorted for desirability. If a cuke doesn’t meet the Ostrom standard, it is set aside and used as feed.
The future looks bright for the Ostroms. “People love fresh produce, especially local produce. We’ve made our name with our local, family-owned product,” said Brian.