In 1987, the Pohlschneider family opened a produce stand on their farm. This roadside attraction was a small added-value to a family farm already rich in tradition. Dating back to the 1920s, this grass seed operation was founded when Alwin Pohlschneider emigrated from Germany to the Willamette Valley to make a new life in the American west.
There are many farms in Oregon with a similar story. What makes the Pohlschneider family farm special is that they realized how fortunate they were to live in Oregon’s fertile country, and they suspected others may be interested in experiencing the farm lifestyle as well. “We can see the country everyday and spend time here, but a lot of people don’t have that,” said Katey Pohlschneider.
With the desire to share country life with others, the Pohlschneiders opened their produce stand, and over the years it has expanded into a thriving agritourism destination called French Prairie Gardens. While the grass seed operation still exists, the face of the farm has been transformed. Today, French Prairie Gardens attracts families from across the region with a wide variety of festivals, events, educational opportunities, and farm fresh produce and specialty items.
Visitors to French Prairie Gardens can expect the traditional—nursery plants in the spring, and a pumpkin patch and hay maze in the fall—however, the Pohlschneiders are always looking to add unique attractions. Seasonal cooking classes, producer-guided farm tours, specialty baked goods, renowned hanging baskets, and the ever-popular “Pigtucky Derby” pig races that take place each fall all give this agritourism destination a special flair.
Providing weekend family fun is not the only priority at French Prairie Gardens. During the fall and spring, the farm hosts school tours, fulfilling an important mission. “To educate people about agriculture was the quest when we started,” said Karren Pohlschneider. And children do learn about agriculture on a visit to the farm. During the Harvest Festival that takes place in the month of October, for example, children can learn about the lifecycle of a pumpkin.
The education effort that French Prairie Gardens prides itself on does not stop with school children. The farm has a Community Supported Agriculture program that provides harvest boxes to members for 18 weeks throughout the summer. “It’s a good way for people to eat healthy, get to know the grower and be able to see the farm,” said Katey. This program helps the Pohlschneiders promote a loyalty to local agriculture, and fulfill their mission of sharing farm culture with those who may not otherwise have access to it. Participating members can pick up their weekly box of fresh produce directly on the farm.
Whatever brings people to French Prairie Gardens—a seasonal festival, a school field trip, or a CSA pick-up—it is surely the Pohlschneiders that bring them back. The farm is run entirely by members of the family and visitors can feel their passion and commitment, which French Prairie Gardens thrives on. “We have memories growing up here, and we want to share the farm and help people build memories,” said Stacy Pohlschneider. “People often come and say we’re the best kept secret. And we say ‘No! Tell everyone we’re here!’”
The French Prairie Gardens Harvest Festival begins September 26, and everyone is invited. The more the merrier, it seems!
See the French Prairie Gardens events calendar for a complete list of festivities on the farm.