Greg Malinowski: Farmer and Washington County Commissioner
Written by FoFF volunteer, Megan Zabel Holmes
When I arrived at the Malinowski farm, 60 green, rolling acres straddling the Multnomah and Washington County line, I was surprised to find a plot so idyllic tucked between the rows of suburban homes I’d driven through to get there.
Being so close to the urban growth boundary is both a blessing and a curse, farmer Greg Malinowski says. He values how close his potential customers are, but he’s frequently dealing with encroaching development. As we spoke while walking around the farm, a bulldozer sat on the property’s border, ready to start shifting dirt to accommodate a new subdivision.
The city wasn’t so close when Greg’s father Andrew arrived from Minnesota and started the farm in the 1940’s. Greg and his brothers Richard and Jon were heavily involved on the farm at an early age; Greg’s lived there all but four years of his life. These days Greg splits his time farming and serving as a Washington County Commissioner, advocating for sensible land use policies.
Today the Malinowski farm raises around 20 beef cows; a mix of Simmental, Hereford and Angus breeds. The livestock are certified organic, grass-fed, and rotationally grazed. The beef is processed at Mark’s Meats in Canby, one of the only local spots set up to handle organic meat. Greg sells private label beef out of his garage, and at the Cedar Mill Farmer’s market. Most of their sales are in bulk, and marketed through word of mouth. The farm also produces chickens, eggs, apples, and hay.
Over time, growing organic has become important to Greg. When he was younger he got a pesticide applicator’s license and had to get his liver tested every two years to monitor the effects of the chemicals. When he did, the news was not good. Greg told his dad that if he wanted to apply pesticide, he needed to find someone else to do it.
“If a four-year-old kid is out in a field picking strawberries, he shouldn’t have to worry about going home and washing that fruit before putting it in his mouth,” Greg says. “I want to produce food that the worst way it can harm you is that it makes you fat. It shouldn’t kill you if you eat too much.”
Greg counts himself lucky to have been born and raised on the farm. “There’s a peacefulness to it,” he said, “being with the plants, trees and the animals.” But he acknowledges that to be in the business today, it’s critical to be born with a farm – and very few of us are these days. That’s why he rents out ½ acre parcels of land to help up-and-coming growers get a foothold.
Greg thinks it’s important to encourage young, cutting edge farmers who are willing to embrace technology. Currently the Malinowski Farm rents out four acres to farmers, including the Farmageddon Grower’s Collective and Grinning Goat Farm, and in 2014, they may have up to ten more acres available. If you’re looking for a piece of earth to work, you could do far worse than this gem of a spot – even if the nearby construction makes it hard to forget how close the city has encroached.