Jay and Jayson Hoffman, Hoffman Farms
Diversification is the key to success at Hoffman Farms, a completely family-run operation where all family members have a role, including Jay and his wife Kelly, along with their son, Jayson, and both daughters Korina and Melissa. What started in 1983 as a 104-acre potato farm, has evolved into a berry, orchard, grass seed, and rotational crop farm with nine entities and three locations in Sherwood, Oregon, including an agri-tourist destination for the ever-growing populous of the Portland Metro area. “We’re a very diverse farm, yet we’re just on the tip of the iceberg of what we can do,” said Jay Hoffman. “As a farmer we have to continue to evolve to stay in business and for us that means harvesting our first crop starting Memorial Day and literally harvesting something every day through Halloween. It’s survival,” Jay added.
Jay grew up on a dairy farm in Beavercreek, Oregon, that transitioned away from cows when he was 13-years-old to grow crops and Christmas trees. When he graduated high school at 17, his father encouraged him to work for someone else, taking him to a potato farm in Washington County, whom quickly became a mentor and friend. After purchasing his own farm in 1983, Jay grew the potato operation to 600 acres, including packaging them under his own private label and delivering them to the top retailers in the Portland market, as well as supplying potatoes to Kettle Foods for chips. After 30 years in the potato business, he saw the retail model shifting and knew diversifying would be necessary. In 1992, the family planted their first blueberries and in 2014 they harvested their last potato crop. During that time, they also purchased another farm on Scholls Ferry Road, which has been home to their farm store, bakery and BBQ, which Jay’s wife, Kelly, and daughters, Korina and Melissa, have managed since 2001.
Their farm store and u-pick berry farm are known for the quality and variety offered throughout the area, including strawberries, blueberries, marionberries, boysenberries, raspberries, and tayberries (a tart berry that Jay says makes the best pies). These berries also supply their bakery with the ingredients for their fresh-baked pies and pastries offered May to October (and special orders over Thanksgiving and Christmas), as well as menu items like fresh strawberry milkshakes. In addition to selling fruit, produce and baked items, Jayson is behind the grill serving up brisket, pulled pork, corn and other items.
While the farm store, pumpkin patch and wedding venue, Butler Barn, keep them busy, they grow an additional 170 acres of blueberries, where 300 seasonal employees help hand-pick 90% of the berries, which are packed under a California Giant label at their on-farm fresh packing facility, which also includes co-packing for outside growers to sell to major retailer chains across the country, and the food service industry.
In addition to this, their 30 fulltime employees, help in other areas of their operation, including planting and harvesting Tall Fescue, wheat, crimson and red clover as rotational crops, pumpkins and sugar beet seed, Christmas trees (to be sold through the farm store), and sweet corn for roadside sales as well as their farm store.
“The thing about us is we’re not scared to try anything and if we can do it ourselves, we will,” Jayson said. This philosophy has served them well in developing niche markets that also help them keep employees busy year-round. Taking on projects like utilizing their excess straw to make erosion tubes for construction sites, to building wetland mitigation banks are a few examples. 15 years ago they started restoring 90 acres of their Tualatin River bank farmland to its natural state, with the restoration of 200 more acres underway. “This is something my dad and I are most passionate about,” Jayson said. “There are a lot of cool benefits to restoring the ground to its natural habitat, including having neighbors recognize the return of birds and wildlife they haven’t seen in years, to leaving our next generation a restored habitat that strengthens the entire ecosystem.”
On the horizon are expanded orchards, including hazelnuts and apples. The Hoffman’s are eagerly awaiting harvests of both crops. And along with that, plans for a cider house to grow their on-farm offerings of berry ciders and more.
Jay is quick to recognize that his business has been built on relationships, which is something he appreciates about Wilco. “I’m a relationship guy. You build a relationship with field reps and agronomists and I feel they are looking out for our best interest, which is something we get from Wilco,” Jay said. Jayson added, “Wilco has done a good job of being strategically placed in the marketplace. We’ve had good success in our relationship. They listen to what their members need and respond to it, giving members good value.”