by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Jessica Romaine of Country Grains and Fir Point Farms is shown at her store in Aurora. Fir Point Farms is celebrating a new partnership with Bauman Farms of Gervais with an April 12 grand opening of Bauman at Fir Point Farms. Consider it a joining of forces in a world of relentless competition.

Fir Point Farms of Aurora and Bauman Farms of Gervais announced last week they are teaming up to open a new farm store in Aurora that will highlight the latter’s produce, plants and other products. The two Willamette Valley farm and nursery mainstays will hold a grand opening Saturday for the new Bauman’s at Fir Point, with the first 500 visitors receiving a free tomato plant.

Workers already are erecting tents and the other trappings of celebration ahead of Saturday’s bash, which is expected to draw thousands of visitors from the metro area and the rest of the valley. Meanwhile, the two farms are pleased with the merger, which comes just in time for the traditional opening of the spring growing season.

“This is a no brainer, this is perfect,” said Brian Bauman, Bauman Farms general manager. “We’ve been looking for a place to kind of expand our reach, but we’re very picky about making sure it’s the right fit; and with the (Fir Point owners Jack and Jessica) Romaines it’s the right fit, those people are amazing.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The first 500 people to arrive at the Baumans at Fir Point grand opening Saturday will receive a free tomato plant. Bauman Farms was founded by Elizabeth Bauman, who initially grew vegetables and other crops for seed companies before launching her own business in 1894. A century later, the farm added a retail produce stand and moved into the nursery business. Today, the farm is known for its hanging baskets, annuals and perennials, as well as its popular fall pumpkin patch and related events, including a giant pumpkin weigh-off.

Fir Point Farms is owned by Jack and Jessica Romaine, who moved south from Wilsonville two years ago, bringing with them their popular bakery and deli, Country Grains.

“They have a very respectful family, and we’re actually very honored to have them here,” said Jessica Romaine. “We’re actually changing our whole theme and our whole concept, so now it’s Country Grains at Fir Point Farms and now it’s going to be Bauman’s at Fir Point Farms, so we’re merging together as a team to make it more convenient for customers. It’s really exciting news.”

Fir Point has almost as long of a history as Bauman Farms, and is one of the state’s longest standing agritourism attractions. According to an article published by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, Fir Point was instrumental in helping to create the whole idea of agritourism in Oregon in the first place.

Penned by council communications coordinator Julie Pederson, the piece outlines how in the 1970s Fir Point was virtually identical to many other small, family farms in the Willamette Valley. What eventually set it apart, though, was a small produce stand started as a Future Farmers of America project by the owners’ son, Eric Stritzke.

“His fresh produce attracted many countryside travelers,” Pederson wrote. “And, while their son worked for FFA credits, Ed and Judy Stritzke began to realize the potential of this small agritourism attraction.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The grand opening event at Fir Point Farms Saturday is expected to draw thousands of people to the Bauman's at Fir Point Farms. The Gervais-based Bauman's is opening a second location at Fir Point Farms in Aurora to better serve its north valley customer base. That modest start would prove transformative. The Stritzke family sold the farm in 2004, and it has subsequently changed hands several more times. The Romaines purchased the farm two years ago and now are carrying on the Fir Point legacy of agritourism in a big way, the latest partnership with Bauman Farms being probably the most prominent example.

Each farm brings its own specialties to the partnership. It’s going to mean some changes for the Romaines and Fir Point, largely because they will be ceding the space they once used to grow and sell annuals, perennials and other flowers over to the Bauman side of operations.

This, however, will allow the Romaines to focus on Country Grains, as well as on growing the hard red wheat and other products needed for the store’s popular breads.

Both farms will continue to host the popular public events and attractions they have become known for. With Fir Point, Gardenpalooza has been an annual draw, while the fall pumpkin harvest has become a huge selling point for the Baumans over the years.

The two farms also have worked together before this, which helped make larger collaboration fairly easy, Bauman said.

“We worked with them on their pumpkin patch, and we sell them the cider that they sell during October,” he said. “So over the last couple of years, as they stated getting into the pumpkin patch business with us we were trying to help them as much as we could and we got to know each other.”

The final result of the merger, with well over a century of history standing behind it, Romaine said, could be something special.

“A lot of customers are coming in saying this is great news,” she said.

A woman approaching the front counter at Country Grains then interrupted Romaine.

“I don’t mean to eavesdrop,” said the woman, who had been listening to the conversation about the new partnership. “But that’s awesome.”

“It could be really big,” Romaine said after the woman left. “It could be something that — I don’t think people realize how big this could be; it could be huge.”

So that’s been the typical reaction?

“Yes!” she said. “Just yesterday, we had a bunch of ladies drive up in a car and ask ‘Where’s Bauman’s? Where’s Bauman’s? Are they here yet?’ And I had to tell them, no, not until April 12.”

By Josh Kulla
Assistant Editor / Photographer
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