Co-op Member Spotlight: Scharf Farms Inc.

Jason Scharf, Scharf Farms, Inc.

Brothers Jason and Justin Scharf are the fourth generation of Scharf’s to carry on their family farm that dates back to 1884 in Amity, Oregon. It is a place where family traditions run deep, employee retention is strong and diversification is key.

With fifty percent of their acreage in grass seed, and a seed cleaning business that their dad, John, and uncle, Jay, built in the 1980’s, Jason emphasized that grass seed is their primary crop. They also grow wheat, canola, white clover, hazelnuts and wine grapes. “Our ancestors grew a little bit of everything, including grass seed,” Jason said. However, from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s they shifted their focus to primarily grass seed, adding the cleaning warehouse too. As the grass seed market shifted, they converted some of their acreage into longevity crops including wine grapes and hazelnuts. “Our records go back 25 years, showing our crop cycles and the changes we’ve made to each field,” Jason said. “We have to rotate crops to keep production at its peak and remain profitable as farmers,” he added.

“We really started getting into hazelnuts in the late 70’s when they were called filberts,” Jason laughs. All of their orchard ground has been replanted with new varieties of hazelnuts. In addition to nuts, their dad made the decision to plant their first vineyard in 1990, with pinot noir grapes. In the late 90’s he jumped in with both feet and expanded this acreage to include several varieties and become the largest grape grower in Polk County at the time. They sold a portion of their grape acreage a few years ago and currently focus on growing pinot noir and pinot gris grapes that they sell to local wineries.

Jason said he always knew he was going to farm. “There’s nothing about farming I don’t enjoy, so I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Jason said. “It’s something different every day and I get to see things through from beginning to end and work both outside and inside with great people.”

Along with his brother and wife, this includes 8-10 fulltime employees and 25 seasonal employees. He and his brother split the farming responsibilities with Jason managing all of the field operations including planting, spraying and harvesting. Justin oversees the vineyard, orchards and warehouse logistics, along with some office duties he shares with Jason’s wife Anna, who takes care of the farm’s accounts payable, human resources and making sure all of their contracts are aligned. Anna is also known for her agricultural advocacy work that has evolved over the years. In July 2021 she was appointed as the State Representative for House District 23, making her voice for agriculture even stronger.

While Anna didn’t grow up in Amity, she grew up in a timber town and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She was working in high tech when her cousin introduced her to Jason. It was a few years after they were married when Anna decided to stay closer to home to raise their two kids, Robby, currently a high school social studies teacher and football coach, and daughter Megan, whom they recently moved into the dorms at Eastern Oregon, studying agriculture management. Both brothers and Anna are active members in their community. Jason serves on the Amity Fire District Board, as well as the Board of Mid-Columbia Producers. Justin sits on the Oregon Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association board, and is an active volunteer with Amity Fire District.

They believe in supporting their local community. Being members of Wilco falls in line with that philosophy and dates back a few generations. The Scharf’s currently use Valley Ag services, and frequent the Wilco Farm Stores too. They see the greatest benefit of Wilco membership being that cooperative profits go back to farmers, as well as overall price for services that help their farming operation thrive.