About a half mile up the road past Bethel Heights Vineyard, directly above Temperance Hill Vineyard, is the Feldman family tree farm. And that’s where you can find our tasting room and Cellar Club manager, Kate Crowe (née Feldman) and her daughter Baylie these days, getting ready for the Christmas Tree harvest. Visitors to Bethel Heights know Kate as the very personification of hospitality in our tasting room, but there is more to Kate than meets the eye. We finally convinced her to tell you a bit about the other side of her life:
I have spent the last 14 years working part time in the Bethel Heights tasting room. I get an immense amount of satisfaction pouring wine and visiting with guests from all over the globe. I have told many visitors that it is how I travel. It’s great for me because I can learn about so many different places and not have to leave my neighborhood. (I am not a great traveler anyway.)
Speaking of my neighborhood, what many of you who have met me in the tasting room may not know is that I grew up right here in the Bethel Heights neighborhood. It is such a beautiful area and a perfect place to raise kids that my husband and I moved back to the farm I grew up on 15 years ago. My mom and dad were gradually working their way toward retirement and decided they needed someone to run the Christmas tree operation that my family started in 1976. I seemed to be a good fit since I had continued to work on the farm helping with harvest and other tasks after I had married and started my family.
We own 350 acres of land here in the beautiful Eola Hills, 45 of it is in Christmas trees. My role is to manage the Christmas trees while my father manages the 150 acres of timber that is on the property. He has also recently started an oak savannah restoration project of which he is extremely proud. About 2 years ago after becoming a certified tree farm we learned that we had a piece of property that was one of the last oak savannahs in the Eola Hills. There are many species of wildflowers growing there that are considered extremely endangered here in the Willamette Valley.
My father was a bit hesitant at first about starting the project thinking that we may not be able to allow our cows or my small flock of sheep to graze in that area. But after discussion with the gentleman from Oregon State University that is guiding us with the project we learned that it is very healthy to have grazing animals on the piece of property because it does not allow the grasses to die and build up. Thus, allowing the wildflowers to germinate. That was exciting news because I was not about to give up my flock of sheep!
We have always tried to be good stewards of our property by using the “old” farming practices. (Now being called “sustainable farming practices”). We use little or no pesticide and herbicide on our trees or around our property. I have had visiting tree farmer’s comment on the amount of weeds we have in our trees or the bees that they see buzzing through the fields. I just smile and ask them how many times a year they have to spray for aphids or other nasty insects that can damage the trees? Their answer is usually “as many times as we need too”. My answer to them is “we never need to”. The bees take care of the aphids; the skunks take care of the bees and so on and so forth. The fields don’t always look as well groomed as theirs but I think the weeds are beautiful!
I guess the marketing part of me is now kicking in and I want to invite you to visit our farm and pick up an extremely fresh cut, pesticide free Christmas tree for your holiday décor! We grow Noble fir and Douglas fir and have all sizes available, and wreaths as well. We will be open from 9:00 to 5:00 daily from November 28 through December 21. We also give walking tours of our tree farm: just call ahead and be prepared to hike! You can contact me at (503) 363-9919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m second generation on our farm and hope that one day one of our children, Josh, Ethan or Baylie (most likely the latter) will be interested in a role here when I am ready to retire. I think that may come quicker than I think!
Tasting room manager Kate signing off!