Upon walking into the kitchen at L & S Farm and Garden, the aroma of fresh baked pies and blueberry muffins intoxicate your senses and ignite your taste buds almost immediately.
This is the kitchen of Sonny and Linda Stephenson, who also own Newberry Country Seasonings and Everything Rhubarb. The couple moved from La Pine, Oregon to Prineville in 2019 and reopened their business shortly thereafter.
Linda comes from a long family heritage in Central Oregon, who homesteaded and tended the earth — including early plant nurseries.
Linda was born and raised in Bend, with eight generations in her family from Central Oregon — counting her great-granddaughter. Her family came over on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and homesteaded at Gray Butte, outside of Prineville. On the other side of her family, her great-grandfather Charles Spring had the first nursery in Prineville in 1911.
Linda was ecstatic when she found an ad at the Central Oregonian from 1911 from her grandfather's nursery, which was called Prineville Green House, Chas. W. Spring, Prop.
"It said, in part, 'All kinds of vegetables and flower plants ready to transplant to the open ground at the proper season. All plants transplanted and well rooted. Pot-grown tomato and cucumber plants. Vegetables out of season...'"
She remarked of the ad that she would sure be curious what kind of pots and soil they used.
Linda learned the basics of gardening at an early age, as her father was a farmer and gardener off of Deschutes Market Road in Bend.
"We would spend hours sitting in his garden eating carrots, radishes and turnips," Linda quoted from her book, "Cold Climate Gardening." "The flowers that he grew from seed and planted in his gardens rivaled the plantings of many professionals. He often said that there was no other hobby on earth that gave him more peace than when he was working the soil and planting his flowers and vegetables."
The Stephenson's have been married for 58 years and had a fencing business in Bend early in their marriage. When Sonny began logging near La Pine, they sold their business. Linda obtained her real estate license and soon began gardening. The couple bought another piece of property in La Pine that had acreage, and they soon put up a hobby greenhouse that Linda had always wanted.
"It was a 20' by 50' with heat and fans," said Linda.
She indicated that she enjoyed talking to people and sharing her gardening experience, and they soon opened L & S Gardens in 1989, which was a retail garden center. The couple ran the business in La Pine for 29 years.
"People came from everywhere — the valley, Eugene. It was fun visiting with people. We sold compost, aggregate, bark, trees, shrubs — it was a big nursery."
The last season they had the greenhouse, after opening in March and working seven days per week, they made the decision to close the greenhouse in October. For a time, she had two staff who could keep things going when she was gone but when they moved on and she could not find help, it was too much.
"I canceled all my orders and I told my husband, 'I am done. Lets' just put it on the market and move to Prineville.' That is what we did."
She indicated that Prineville offered a better growing climate. Linda noted that La Pine has one of the most severe climate conditions for a growing season that rivals the most brutal growing seasons in the United States. There would be days when the temperature would be 94 degrees in the day and plummet to 14 degrees at night. She said they would get calls and visits to the nursery at L & S Farm and Garden on how to grow grapes, apricots or how to put in an orchard.
"It's not because it gets so cold, it's not because it gets so much snow, it's the continual fluctuation," Linda commented of the temperature swings in La Pine.
She added that she journaled every day and kept a good record of the changes in temperature. Although Crook County has temperature fluctuations, they are much less severe. She joked that if you could grow it in La Pine, you could grow it anywhere.
After selling the business, the couple wanted to locate in the north side of Prineville. They found property on Gerke Road and put a home on their property, as well as a greenhouse and kitchen. They soon opened up two businesses and kept the name L & S Farm and Garden. The first business, Newberry Country Seasonings, involves a variety of meat blend seasonings — including Applewood Chipotle Rub, BBQ Rub, and jerky and seafood.
Linda also authors books about gardening and recipes. Her most popular book is "Cold Climate Gardening" — for planting the hardiest of the hardy of plants, trees and shrubs for the Central Oregon area. She has sold thousands of copies of this book, and she cannot keep it on her shelves. She is currently working on a book for lavender.
"I like to write. I wrote quite a few articles for Better Homes and Gardens and different things in their garden issue. It was fun."
She added that she has also written three Dutch oven cookbooks, in addition to her other two books listed above. They are all available on Amazon or in her kitchen on Gerke Road. She also sells her goods at Sage Door in Prineville.
The other business is called Everything Rhubarb. Linda grows and cans rhubarb preserves, sauces, jams, jellies, salsas and wedding favors. She also sells a rhubarb cookbook. Along with her baking goods that are for sale, she sells rhubarb pies.
The Stephensons also have an agriculture license and a greenhouse where she sells tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and other herbs and produce during the growing season. She has a greenhouse on her property, and she also has raised beds outside the greenhouse. During the fruit season, she makes and sells a plethora of fruit pies.
"I am not a cake decorator, and I do simple things for fun," she explained of her limited bakery goods for sale.
Her kitchen is licensed as a commercial kitchen. They are also licensed to sell their own beef (they raise angus) and eggs.
"I love people to pop in," she said of her kitchen.
Her hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. She elaborated that her hours would be limited to appointments for the next month, until March.
Upon visiting Linda's kitchen and pantry, she discussed her love of canning preserves. She started the rhubarb festival when she lived in La Pine and held it at her nursery. Now she participates as a vendor. By 3 p.m. on the first day of the festival, she is sold out of the two-day festival.
"My favorite thing to do, is jams and jellies. In March, I will start gearing up for the big rhubarb festival in La Pine," Linda concluded. "I started that 12 years ago and when we moved, I turned that over to the senior center, and that is their big money maker. Last year, they sold 933 pies and they had 70 vendors."
L & S Farm and Garden, Newbery Country Seasonings, Everything Rhubarb
Owners: Sonny and Linda Stephenson
Address: 4243 Gerke Road
Normal Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Upcoming beginning gardening classes will be available April 2. To pre-register, text Linda at 541-408-2295.
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