Submitted By Paul Lieggi, Executive Chef
At the tender ages of 12 and 14, Sam and Johnny Rosenblad are already seasoned entrepreneurs, taught well by their dad, farmer Jeff Rosenblad. They sell cucumbers from Happy Harvest Farms in Mount Angel, OR, at the local farmers’ market and to Bon Appétit at both University of Portland and Willamette University through the Farm to Fork program. To get an idea of the scale of their business, last year, Executive Chef James Green at University of Portland purchased more than 1,400 pounds of cucumbers, while the crew at Willamette University in Salem bought around 800 pounds.Willamette pickled them in-house and served them through January 2012!
In early June, the Rosenblads start planting. The cucumbers mature quickly, with harvest beginning in late July and continuing through mid-September. The boys pick every other day for six to eight weeks. When Willamette Executive Chef Paul Lieggi took a trip out to the farm one hot sunny afternoon, the boys explained that it was not the best time for picking. Early mornings are much cooler, enabling the cucumbers to cool down more quickly, preserving their shelf life. Working as a team with a friend, they picked three 5-gallon buckets in just minutes while chatting with Paul. After being harvested, each cucumber was submerged in cold water to keep it crisp.
This year the Rosenblad boys plan to expand from approximately 600 plants to 1,000 plants to meet increasing demand, and they also intend to start an egg operation with 250 laying hens. The motivation? College. Dad requires them to put at least 70% of their earnings in the bank for their college educations. Judging from their industriousness, however, they’ll always have a fallback plan in cucumbers.