By Julie Pederson
4 B Farms sits in the shadow of its past. On a hill overlooking the Butsch family’s fields, Mt. Angel Abbey serves as a constant reminder of their connection to the town of Mt. Angel, Ore., and their historical significance in this part of the state.
In 1873, Mathius Butsch arrived in Mt. Angel from Switzerland with the Benedictine priests that founded the abbey, now known in the area as Abbey Hill. This patriarch of the Butsch family played an integral role in the development of the town of Mt. Angel, and his legacy continues today. Members of the Butsch family have been settled in Mt. Angel since his arrival, and they remain active participants in the farming and social community of the town.
4 B Farms, named for the four members of the Butsch family that founded the farm in 1972, continues to be family owned and operated today. On 2,500 acres, the family raises a variety of crops for the wholesale market including garlic, hops, grass seed, filberts, wheat, row crops and specialty seeds.
Lori Pavlicek, now married with a family of her own, is one of the original B’s in 4 B Farms, and serves today as the farm’s secretary. She stands as a strong advocate for the town—staying active with the Oktoberfest fundraising committee and St. Mary’s Catholic Church—and the agricultural community.
Even in these trying economic times, Pavlicek has the attitude of a true agriculturalist—thinking first of the livelihood that her family’s business provides. “In the tough economy, our goal is staying in business,” she says. “We hope to become more efficient in our operations, and able to do more with less, because we have 13 families to support.”
With such labor intensive crops as garlic and hops, 4 B Farms is dependent on their full-time and seasonal employees to bring the crops in at harvest and keep the business running. Luckily, the entire Butsch clan has remained true to their farming roots, and at harvest time family members that are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the farm turn out to help—including the children.
Keeping the youth of today involved in agriculture is an important mission for 4 B Farms. “I hope the farm can still be around for our kids to work. I want them to have the work ethic that farm kids have,” says Pavlicek.
Youth from the community can also find summer-time employment on 4 B Farms. The farm employed 20 local kids this summer, many whose parents worked on the farm before them. Pavlicek feels that providing the opportunity for youth to become involved in farming will help ensure the vitality of Oregon agriculture in the future.
When speaking to someone from this community, it is clear that the protected little town of Mt. Angel has changed very little with the passing of time. Having grown up in the town, Pavlicek can provide a first-hand testament to the joys of living in such a close-knit community. “Our farm neighbors have stayed the same, and we all support each other,” she says. “Last season, when a near-by hop field failed, everyone turned out to offer a helping hand. It’s nice to know you can count on those neighbors if you need help.”
When Mathius Butsch moved to Mt. Angel and cut the lumber for the first church in town, he was building a legacy that continues to this day. While 4 B Farms looks to the future—diversifying and mechanizing their business to ensure survival, and encouraging youth to become involved in farm work—they also look to the past for guidance.
“These are very uncertain times,” says Pavlicek, “and our generation hasn’t experienced the ups and downs of previous generations. It’s going to be interesting to see how we handle it, and we hope to learn from our parents.”