Organic Redneck Name: History and Future
The land we now call Organic Redneck is here along the banks of the McKenzie River. It has a long history that is only partially known. The Kalapuya tribe(s) were said to live along the McKenzie long before westerners arrived, and possibly other ancient peoples were here even before the Kalapuya. While there is a rich history in this valley, today, we’re focusing on recent history.
Organic Redneck’s history started when Douglass Moser and Carol Ach first acquired the farm in the mid-90s. The farm came with a name from the prior owner’s, the Halbert family. The farm’s name, “Halbert’s Blueberries” was a fine name, but the sign that hung was well worn and Carol and Douglass were ready to hang a fresh painted one. Briefly the farm was named Mountain View Farm, but it was in conflict with another Lane Country farm so the name was changed, this time to “Mckenzie River Farm”. This name served the farm for a number of years and in a few places it can still be found today.
In the early 2000s, a term emerged that encapsulated the kind of folks Carol, Douglass and their kids were, “Organic Redneck”. This didn offend anyone at the time, as many rural Oregonians are self-described rednecks. Our family is made up of long-term Oregonians, who drive trucks, run chainsaws and are often sunburnt from working in the sun. And they were scrappy, self-sufficient types. At some point, some t-shirts were printed with “Organic Redneck'' on the front of them and “I make dirt look good” on the back, and the name was embraced. The T-shirts were popular, and people just started calling the farm and farmers “The Organic Rednecks”.
Some years later when Sam and Jack (the next generation) started taking on the responsibility of farming the land from their parents, they decided to set up a new business. Sam and Jack were ready to rename the farm in a way to identify it separately from the farm their folks had run. So, they took the phrase from the t-shirts and attached it to the LLC, “Organic Redneck LLC. This name was different, it stood out, it seemed oxymoronic to some folks. It was also just unique enough to be memorable. This was not as well thought out as it should have been, but Organic Redneck was now the name. The signage, website, etc. were adorned with the same name. Maybe it was because of the farmers’ limited perspectives or just a lack of knowledge of the historical meaning of the term redneck, but the undertones were missed at first. It seems that the term redneck, to an Oregonion didn’t have the controversial history that the term carried to many folks, and there was a belief that it just represented the rural working class individuals in our neck of the woods. .
As time went on Jack became the only family member still farming the land. People often questioned Jack and the name of the farm, and it became clear that this term redneck had a very complicated and racist history. While Jack tried to justify the use of the term by showing his sunburnt neck and trying to reclaim the term from some of it’s associations as a white, working class individual, it was a steep hill to climb. Jack stated that we had no intentions to associate ourselves with the derogatory or racist ideology, but as our awareness increased over time, it became harder and harder for us to defend the use of this name.
While we have talked about changing the farm’s name for several years, and have had intention to do so, during the Summer of 2020, it became ever more glaringly obvious that it was past time for us to move away from the redneck term.
We took some time this summer, and talked with our employees about what our farm could do to make a better impact on the world in specific ways that would support people of color and indigenious communities. We determined that we needed to take a closer look at a number of things, but one very strong desire was that the farm’s name was not representing what we wanted to communicate about our values.
The history of the term ‘redneck’ is complex and somewhat disputed, but there is little debate that it has historically been used as a derogatory term for poor, white farmers. More optimistic historical accounts have claimed that the term originated with coal miners who wore red handkerchiefs to signify their membership in a union, a symbol that actually helped unify white, black, and immigrant laborers. It has also been used as a denigrating term for working class people who support populist reforms and alleged communists, certainly histories worth supporting and reclaiming. However, despite some potentially positive associations with poor and working-class people, most people’s immediate first impression upon hearing the word in today’s climate is undeniable. It calls to mind this country’s long history of racism and a recent resurgence of unapologetic white supremacy. While there are some “rednecks” reclaiming this identity to oppose racism, whether or not this connotation is 100% accurate should be a moot point when designing a public image meant to symbolize our values.
Associating ourselves with the term ‘redneck’ may have far-reaching negative impacts to People of Color (POC). It may dissuade these individuals from feeling safe in places like the farmer’s market that are already predominantly white. It may prevent potential POC farmers from applying to work for the farm, hampering efforts to increase diversity among staff. It may delegitimize staff members’ ability to do other important anti-racism work in the community if they are associated with a business whose branding disrespects people of color.
While the farm continually evolves and changes over time, the name change is part of a larger change we are starting to make. This change involves us reevaluating many things about the way we participate as a business, in our community and with our employees. But, we also want to assure everyone that some things won’t change; we will continue to be unrelenting in our quest for exceedingly high quality, delicious, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
As we think about renaming the farm, we want to be more methodical than in the previous iterations, this may take some time.
Jack Richardson, and staff,
Over the past month we reached out to our community and asked for suggestions and inspiration for our new name. This wordcloud below is the result.
Oregon's Largest Blueberry Farm in 1952
The farm was originally planted to blueberries in 1952. Many of these same plants are still producing blueberries today. Legend has it that it was the largest blueberry farm in Oregon at that time. Hard to know if it's the truth, but it wouldn't be a suprise. Of course these days there are many other, much larger, blueberry farms. Through the years the farm was known as Branson Blueberries, Henry's and several other names.
In 1995 Carol and Douglass, with their children, were looking for some blueberries When they stopped at "Halberts Blueberries," one thing led to another and they ended up buying the whole farm. They thought, "What a solution! Keep the kids busy with farm work and let them graze on blueberries".
Our family has been here for nearly 20 years and have branched out (no pun intended), to offer much more than just blueberries. The kids mentioned earlier manage the farm and continue to eat lots of blueberries.
Organics and Beyond
Organics have been a big part of our value system. We also incorporate biodynamics into our farm as well. We believe that we should be improving the soil, air and water as well providing an equitable, rewarding work place to build a stronger, more secure local economy and healthy population.
Some of the Organic Certification requirements:
Maintain accurate records for planting, care, harvest, sales and applications of any substances to soil, plants or water.
Requires an annual inspection where your records are reviewed and fields are walked.
Prohibits use of any genetically engineered plant or seed material.
Organic seed must be used if available.
All substances acceptable for organic production must be reviewed by one of several third party labs to ensure their alliance with organic principals.
No raw or uncomposted manures can be used on ground currently producing food or within 90-120 days of harvest.
Maintain reciepts of all purchased inputs: seeds, fertilizer, plants.
Make sure equipment or packaging is new or cleaned if it has been used in a conventional system.
These are just a few of the requirements. For more information check our certifier's website: tilth.org/certification/