1st article written about the farm


Couple starts a small farm in Sisters

Funded largely by donations, Mahonia Gardens sprouts northwest of town.

Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin /

Published Jun 22, 2013 at 05:00AM

When Benji Nagel and Carys Wilkins told people of their plans to start a small farm in Sisters — growing vegetables and herbs to sell at local markets and restaurants — some were encouraging. But others laughed and offered a sarcastic, “good luck!”

See, growing anything other than juniper trees and sagebrush in the High Desert is notoriously difficult. Many local residents have had their hearts broken when a late-summer frost wiped out treasured tomato plants just before harvest.

But Nagel and Wilkins, both 25, were undeterred and plowed ahead with their planned garden, called Mahonia Gardens, on a piece of land about a mile from downtown Sisters.

And this week the bounty in their garden — rows of kale, cabbages, peas, lettuce and more — is proof positive their efforts were worth the risk.

The beginning

Growing up, Nagel and Wilkins never imagined they would become farmers.

Nagel grew up in Sisters and always saw himself as a professional musician. He recalls a friend in high school talking about how cool it would be to start a community garden. But he was “not into that idea whatsoever,” he said. He could never have imagined himself where he is now, happily spending every day working in the dirt.