Karen Davis retires after helping to build an urban agricultural oasis

by: VERN UYETAKE - Karen Davis shows longtime community gardener Dirk Schulback the photo albums on her years at Luscher Farm. Davis was treated to a big party on her final day as community garden coordinator.Karen Davis was literally speechless at her retirement party at Luscher Farm on Friday.

That is because she came down with laryngitis after strenuous use of her voice at a meeting the previous night.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had laryngitis,” Davis said.

The timing for this affliction was bad, but everything else about her party was wonderful as friends and admirers filled up the farmhouse at Luscher Farm to show their gratitude and affection for a woman who had done so much to make the farm what it is today in her 11 years as garden coordinator.

Davis was given the nickname “The Farm Lady” by her friend Jan Wirtz, recreation supervisor for the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department, and it is difficult to imagine Luscher Farm without Karen Davis. But she decided it was time to go.

“It seemed time for a change,” Davis said. “I wanted to spend more time with my family. When you get to be in your 70s you start wondering about what you would do if you had the time.”

When Davis first came to Luscher Farm there were no garden plots. She helped put the first one in. Today there are 185 gardens and a ridiculously long waiting list of people who want one. There are also chickens, scarecrows, a children’s garden, Roxie the sleepy farm cat and the tractor, a rejuvenated classic and a dream come true.

“I love that tractor,” Davis said.

But even more than her tractor, Davis said she loved seeing the wonder filling the faces of first-time gardeners as they made things grow.

It would be tempting to see Davis as the fairy godmother of gardening, but she is modest about her role in transforming Luscher Farm. by: VERN UYETAKE - Karen Davis says Luscher Farm is a place for food, friends and fresh air. There was certainly a lot of food and friends at her farewell party on Friday.

“The city deserves so much credit for having the foresight to buy the land,” Davis said. “Most cities buy a little plot of land and end up with a picnic table and a few swings. Just a city park. Here, local people have a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and come to a place of food, friendship and fresh air. It’s kind of an oasis.”

Now, Davis will have a lot more time for her grandchildren — “kids only think grandparents are cool for so long” — hiking and horses, and she has her own garden at Luscher.

“At my retirement party I was given a certificate to always have a plot at the farm,” Davis said. “I intend to use it for the rest of my life.”

For Davis it has been a bountiful life.

“We all want to feel that we made things a little bit better with our lives,” she said. “It has been a joy to have been part of helping Luscher Farm to grow.”

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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