Wimer organic farm reaches out for support

Tyler Maris and Jennifer Foster dropped off several boxes of lettuce Wednesday at the Reaching Our Community food pantry on Southwest Foundry Street, as a token of appreciation to the community.
Maris and Foster work at The Farming Fish, a Wimer-area organic farm that fertilizes its garden greens with waste from fish grown in tanks on the property. Farm operators Olivia Hittner and Michael Hasey are involved in a $42,000 online fundraising effort to improve their greenhouse, and are donating a head of lettuce to local food banks for every $3 donated to the Kickstarter campaign.
The food pantry's Ruth Johnsen said food donations help feed the thousands of people the pantry helps every month.
"We count on the farms," Johnsen said, after Maris and Foster pulled up in a pickup truck with the lettuce. "This is huge what they're bringing in."
The lettuce had been harvested that morning. It went into a cooler, to be handed out to food pantry clients. Several hundred head of lettuce were donated.
"People are pledging to help our farm out," Hittner said, in a telephone interview. "We thought we would do some pledging of our own. We want to support this community."
The fundraising effort for the greenhouse improvements continues through Sept. 2. It's raised about $900 so far.
"We really need to get the word out," Hittner said. "We didn't realize how difficult it is to share something like this so widely. It doesn't take that many people to give $10 to meet our goal."
The farm uses 95 percent less water than traditional irrigation methods. A feature about the farm's operations is contained in today's Home & Garden section.
"Our farm is leading by example," Hittner said. "We're putting Southern Oregon on the map. This is the beginning of an industry. We get calls every day from people wanting to do this."
Having the fish on the property is like "having an organic fertilizer factory on your farm," Hitter said.
The farm has been operating for four years, but its single-layer greenhouse does not provide enough insulation, and a second layer of plastic and an improved heating-cooling system is needed to grow plants more productively in the winter.
"We need a little bit of support to make it through this next hump," Hitter said. "This is one of those farming methods that is expensive up front. What we're going to save in water is much, much more than the infrastructure were putting in now."
 For information, call 541-582-0415 or go online to Facebook or Kickstarter and search for The Farming Fish.

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