September 21, 2012

Farming while cutting down on fossil fuels

by Nate Rafn
Salem Weekly

Living inside a retrofitted school bus on a farm 6 miles south of Dallas, two novice farmers are building their dream from the ground up.

Julie Noble and Jacob Sanders have been living in the bus since August 2012. Before that, they spent ten years living and working in Portland. In the summer of 2011, Julie started visiting Polk County on a regular basis to spend time with her friend Carly Boyer at Dicentra Farm.

"I biked down to the farm about every weekend from Portland," says Julie. "...just to come down, be on the farm and help out."

Jacob would soon join her on the 83-mile trip. And when their seasonal employment in Portland came to an end, they decided to move to Polk County to start a farming business of their own.

Jacob was raised on farms in Oklahoma and therefore had some experience in agriculture.

"I grew up with large-scale agriculture... driving tractors, herding cattle, growing hay," says Jacob. "I want to get away from that and do smaller scale, more personal [type of farming]."

The couple relocated in November 2011 and immediately started planning their new business, which they named Beautiful Buffalo Farm.

"Not much going on in the valley in November," says Julie. "It's hard to find jobs in the country if you don't know anyone. So we were penny-less."

To make matters worse, Julie and Jacob were flooded out of their home in January. This was followed by a serious illness and an emergency surgery for Julie in February.

"It was a pretty epic time," says Julie. "We learned a lot about being resilient."

With two major hardships behind them, Julie and Jacob focused on the 2012 growing season. Julie landed a part-time job at Fairview Farm Goat Dairy, while Jacob found various odd-jobs. With whatever spare time they could find, Julie and Jacob tended small plots of soil at both Dicentra Farm and Bridgeport Farms and Gardens, growing a variety of vegetable crops. In May 2012 they secured a booth at the Monmouth Farmers' Market and Craft Fair. In addition to produce, they offer bicycle tune-ups to help pay the booth fee.

What makes Beautiful Buffalo Farm truly unique is their avoidance of fossil fuels and heavy farming equipment. Julie and Jacob don't own a car, let alone a tractor. They cultivate the soil by hand and deliver produce to the farmers' market via bicycle. While they offer free home delivery to southwest Polk County, no one has yet taken them up on the offer. According to Julie, customers don't want to feel responsible in the event of an accident. (There are very few rural roads in Polk County with bike lanes.)

And while most motorists are conscientious of cyclists, some simply refuse to share the road. Still, it doesn't deter these two young farmers.

"The more I bike, the better I feel," says Jacob. "We're also trying to see if [this type of farming] is a feasible model."

Nate Rafn is the executive producer of Living Culture, and creator of Dinner at the Rafns' supper-club. Learn more at and

Beautiful Buffalo Farm

Farmers' Markets:

Monmouth Farmers' Market and Craft Fair
152 Warren St. N, Monmouth, OR
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 12pm - 6pm
February through December


  1. Thanks for sharing this! (Re: Motorists are contentious of cyclists - maybe conscious of cyclists? It's the ones won't share who are contentious!)

    100% bike transport may not be feasible or sustainable, alas.

    Pitchfork & Crow also may use a bike for some cultivation and transport work, but not all.

    Keep us posted!

  2. Oh darn. I meant to say "conscientious." Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    I intend to keep purchasing produce from this farm. I want to see them succeed. We may do a follow-up story in few years to see how they are doing.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Breakfast on bikes, this is Jacob from BBF, We are finding that it is feasible and sustainable on a very small scale, though to expand we'd have to find more like minded bikers that would do it for little, or just for the sake of something new and aventurous. Sadly, there aren't many adventurous people of that type around these parts with nothing to do. What is b-fast on bikes?

  4. You know Breakfast on the Bridges in Portland? We started doing a similar project here in Salem five years ago. You can read more about it here. I just saw the video and will share it over the weekend! Ride on!

    I'm glad to hear the bikes are working so far!


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