Darren Sinn is what you would call a “natural born farmer.” As a third-generation farmer, he is the owner and head grower at Eden Fruit Farms in Silverton, Oregon, and is a proud blackberry grower. At 30 years old, Darren is considered “young” for a farmer—and with the average age for many today being 58, he is. It is in this regard, that Darren’s story is similar to that of Brett Rhoads, Ethan Lineberger, and other third-generation farmers that Seal the Seasons proudly works with.
The reality of farming today is that running a successful operation for three generations is no small task. Between financial risks, personnel shortages, encroaching development, and changes in our ecosystem, farmers that continue to practice the profession face significant challenges when it comes to bringing food to our tables—and with increasing frequency—year over year.
Despite these challenges, however, farmers such as Darren see their profession as not just another job, but almost a type of societal duty. Working with his family, and the greater community each year to plant and produce harvests, Darren hopes to not only one day pass his trade along to his children but also to expose more young people to the farming profession by getting them involved at a young age.
Recently, Seal the Seasons had a chance to sit down and catch up with Darren Sinn to discuss everything from his favorite crop, the role his farm plays in the community, operations, and a whole host of topics.
STS: How long have you been farming and how did you get started? How old were you when you first drove a tractor?
DS: I have spent my entire life on the farm (30years). I am the third generation born and raised on our farm. I started driving tractors around 9 years old, or when my feet could reach the pedals. My first tractor job was using the loader tractor to muck out our cow/calf barn.
STS: What’s your favorite part of your farm? What will you tell your grandchildren about this spot on the farm?
DS: There is a spot on our farm where our berries are literally grown under the shadow of Mount Hood. During the summer the snow melts off Mount Hood and gives us water to irrigate our berries. I look forward to taking my grandkids to this spot to stand in awe of creation and to teach them how our farm fits in the larger ecosystem. The combination of working outside, alongside my family and eating wonderful farm-grown fruit is the perfect trifecta.
STS: What is your favorite crop to grow and why?
DS: I am most passionate about growing blackberries. The blackberries we grow are unique in appearance, taste and texture. Oregon’s warm summer days and cool nights allow for our blackberries to develop rich flavor and color that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Blackberries often get overlooked in favor of other berries, but nothing beats a sweet, tangy blackberry straight from the field.
STS: Beyond growing food, do you think the farm plays any other role in the community that it doesn’t get enough credit for?
DS: We bring people together. Part of our farm labor strategy is to hire high school kids to fill summer positions. I’ve seen life-long relationships built on the berry picker crews. Kids that don’t grow up in agriculture get a chance to experience farming and the sense of community that goes with it. For many of these young adults, that leaves a lasting impression.
STS: How do you keep your soil healthy year to year? Are there things you do to improve the soil and ecological diversity of the farm? What’s one “extra” practice you do that makes the land better for the next generation?
DS: Healthy soil is extremely important for our long-term viability. Being a multigenerational farm, we don’t take a short term view on soil health. We are constantly thinking of how practices today will impact the next 100 years. We plant cover crops in between our blackberry rows which keeps the soil porous and helps retain available water. These cover crops replenish nutrients in the soil and mitigate soil erosion.
STS: Who is your role model in the farming profession and what makes them a leader in the farming community?
DS: My Dad. He attends commission meetings and exemplifies lending a helping hand to other farmers. He shares lessons learned with other growers and works hard.
STS: What is the most rewarding part of growing healthy food on the farm?
DS: We were one of the first farms to implement top food safety protocols on our farm (Global Gap). We have been under a third-party food safety audit for over 10 years. We feel good knowing that our produce is the safest, healthiest food straight from our farm to your table. Berries are great for your health.
STS: Do you have any special harvest or post-harvest traditions?
DS: At the end of every season, we spend a day crabbing out on the bay and unwinding from the rush of harvest.
STS: What’s something that the city people don’t understand about farming or running a farm?
DS: The huge financial risk of farming. There are no guarantees in farming. Weather, labor and markets vary every year and so does your income. Some years you get major pay cuts.
STS: What are your favorite dishes to make with your own produce?
DS: Blackberry Cobbler
STS: What has been the biggest benefit of working with Seal the Seasons?
DS: Seal the Seasons is exceptional at helping farmers tell their stories. The packaging is well designed and connects the customer to the farmer. This interaction creates a space for farmers to showcase their value proposition. Retail seems to be moving more and more to generic store brands that limit this interaction. It is refreshing to see a label that is moving in the opposite direction. Customers are willing to support local if they can discern local products.
For those of you in the pacific northwest region, Darren’s blackberries can be purchased via Seal the Seasons at a Safeway, or Albertson’s, location near you. Available now in the frozen food section.