King's Farm to Table: Family harvest, community roots
About a year ago, Leslie King's father Bill took her on a drive down Stafford Road to show her something he'd seen that caught his eye. It was an old building near the intersection of Stafford and Southwest Homesteader Road that used to be home to an antique furniture store.
King's parents had lived close to the area off Southwest 65th Avenue for a time, and her father explained to her that he had always envisioned this building being a successful location to create a farm stand. Having worked in the food industry for more than a quarter century as a vice president of culinary for McCormick and Schmick's as well as a consultant, he had always wanted to start a farm stand that focused on fresh, local produce. He offered Leslie a chance to become business partners and help him bring his vision of a high-quality farm stand to fruition.
At the time, Leslie was considering a career change after managing Clackamas County Health Centers in Clackamas and Oregon City for a number of years. She was ready for a new career, one in which she could be her own boss and flex her creative muscles rather than riding a desk.
She decided to take the plunge with her father, and the two went about figuring out how to lease the building located at 26015 S.W. Stafford Rd.
"My dad started to do some digging, and my stepmom is a realtor, so they were able to track down the owners," Leslie said. "We approached them with our idea and they loved it."
A year later, Kings Farm to Table opened to rave reviews on social media. According to Leslie, Facebook and Nextdoor have been a huge boon to their businesses with folks who stop by posting incredibly positive and kind feedback about their experience. A massive "opening soon" sign that hung out front of their building garnered a lot of attention in the months leading up to their opening, and now they've built a small, cult following of customers who are excited to have a new farm stand to frequent.
But it took a lot of hard work and strategizing to get this point, she says. The first thing Leslie did was to go to the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University where she conducted a bit of market research, talking to vendors and customers alike about what was selling and what wasn't. She began building relationships with farms around Clackamas County and beyond to fill the stand with fresh, quality produce from local growers.
"For me, it's really interesting because i've gotten to drive out into farm country and there are so many farms," she said. "It's crazy to me people aren't selling all the produce they have. There's a huge amount of variety that we produce in this area."
Kings Farm to Table offers various types of produce and other products including corn, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, eggplant, locally-sourced honey, organic goat's milk soap, bell peppers, beets, blueberries and much more. Their products come from far and wide including farms and businesses in Boring, Dayton, Canby, Forest Grove, Troutdale, Wilsonville, Oregon City, Hood River, Damascus and Yamhill.
Some of their produce — including tomatoes, peppers and much more — is even grown on site in the 50 raised beds Leslie and Bill built behind their store. They started almost all their crops from seed and have been taking tips from other local farms as well as the folks at West Linn-Wilsonville School Districts Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies (CREST) School just down the road.
"I hadn't really grown (like this) before, just on a personal level at my house. People have been so generous with their knowledge, giving us pointers and telling us about best practices and things," Leslie said. "It's a simpler life, that's for sure. My job was really hard so I wasn't worried about that. I knew it would be physically challenge, but the trade off is worth it. We've kind of adopted the slogan: Family roots, community harvest."
The Kings also had to retrofit the building to be more conducive to a farm stand business rather than an antique furniture store, although the aesthetic of the building was perfect for what they aimed for.
"I'm an artist at heart and it's been a long time since I've been able to be creative," Leslie said. "Being able to come in and do projects — it felt like that's all I did for a while before we opened — was a lot of fun."
Walk into King's Farm to Table and you'll feel like you've gone back to a simpler, more rural time in human history. They used a few pieces of furniture from the property owners who ran the antique furniture store, and her father built several of the tables which Leslie stained and made custom tablecloths to adorn them with. Her aunt also provided a dozen or so items that helped tie
the place together and give it that "down-home" vibe which inspires a sense of rustic
One unique aspect of their farm stand is they're also outfitting the place with art from local artists. Several beautiful macro photography shots of animals and insects — taken by Leslie's husband, Eladio Xep — hang on the walls. Several ornate glass sculpture pieces created by Leslie's neighbor Jane Montgomery are for sale throughout the store, and she plans to start including more art to make the space somewhat of a living gallery. She's also working on finding avenues to provide unique products — such as honey, soaps, art and other goods — that will allow the stand to remain open throughout the entire year while certain summer and fall crops aren't available.