A tangled row of colorful flowers greets visitors at N & N Amaro Produce Farm in Gales Creek, Oregon. Though some are past their peak and weeds threatened to overtake the rest, it’s clear they were lovingly planted. Flowers might seem unusual for a husband and wife team of farmers like Nicolás and Norma who focus primarily on produce. Norma explains that the flowers play the important role of attracting pollinators, but more importantly, she says with a wink, she just likes them. This philosophy of using natural farming methods plus growing what interests them extends throughout N & N Amaro Farm.
Norma explains that the flowers play the important role of attracting pollinators, but more importantly, she says with a wink, she just likes them.
Nicolás, one of ten children growing up near Puebla, Mexico, enjoyed plenty of fresh produce thanks to the small-scale farming efforts of his father. Uninterested in farming in his youth, he barely listened when his father tried to pass along the knowledge. Instead, Nicolás moved to Oregon and built a career in the construction industry. Norma, originally from Mexico City, also moved to Oregon and met Nicolás at a party in 1995. They were married the next year and soon started a family. Restless on the weekends, Nicolás began gardening and found bits of his father’s farming wisdom coming back to him. He smiles with delight recalling his young children playing in the soil and the pleasure that comes from feeding them vegetables he grew himself.
In 2006 a farm training program approached the Amaros about taking classes on sustainable growing practices for cultivation of small land parcels. The Amaros eagerly signed on and soon found their passion. In 2011, they leased their current two-acre plot and got to work using their education and the tips passed down from Nicolás’s father. Today, their well-established farm thrives on natural and organic growing practices, such as hot pepper and mint sprays in lieu of chemical pesticides; crop rotation to enrich soil and deter pests; and compost for fertilizer to produce the varieties they bring to market.
Nicolás loves delighting his shoppers with something they’ve never heard of like bumpy-looking bitter melon.
Variety really fuels their interests. “Sure,” Nicolás says, “we could grow more staples like potatoes, carrots, and beans, but where’s the fun in that?” He loves delighting his shoppers with something they’ve never heard of like bumpy-looking bitter melon (pictured above), garbanzo beans still on the bush, or one of the 30 different types of peppers. Among rows of freshly planted garlic and sun-drying onions, Nicolás and Norma always have new crops to be excited about and a few failed experiments too. They don’t aim for perfection in their operation – tomatillos are often harvested from among the weeds, whole rows of garlic get eaten by the gophers, and once they chose the wrong type of leeks for the climate. But Nicolás views these as worthwhile trade-offs for the diversity of crops they can offer shoppers.
N & N Amaro Produce grows over 30 different types of peppers.
Since its beginning, N & N Amaro Farm has anchored the Lents International Farmers Market. They have developed a following of loyal neighbors and shoppers who appreciate their quality, variety and freshness. So fresh that in summer their son Nicolás Jr. arrives just before the opening bell with delicate squash blossoms harvested that morning.
Nicolás hand roasts shopper’s peppers to the perfect level of smoky goodness.
N & N’s fresh roasted peppers are an autumn highlight for Lents shoppers. After choosing an assortment of spicy delights, market-goers watch as Nicolás hand roasts their peppers to the perfect level of smoky goodness.
Stop by Lents International Farmers Market Sundays through November 24 to support this local family. Peruse their wide variety of produce, pick out something new to try, and don’t hesitate to ask Norma and Nicolás for recipe ideas or cooking tips.