Gigi Meyer grew up in Portland, Oregon, but learned to ride horseback and sort cattle when her father bought a cattle ranch in eastern Oregon when she was 10. After years working in New York City as a journalist and artist, with nothing more than a window box of herbs, Gigi spent eight months living and working in Siena, Italy, as the caretaker of a villa where she tended a huge garden and cared for chickens and ducks. This amazing opportunity made her realize that she couldn’t return to a city—she needed to create a life for herself somewhere in between the wilderness she had known in the high desert of eastern Oregon and the hectic culture of an urban environment. Gigi returned to Oregon, settling in Bend, and began training horses and scheming her return to farm life.
In the fall of 2005, Gigi bought 10 acres of land about 15 miles east of Bend, and began with a half-acre garden. Her desire to learn and evolve eventually led to the development of a small, sustainably-managed farm. Her father, Roger L. Meyer, was an integral part of the first years of Gigi’s farming endeavors and purchased an adjacent 10-acre parcel in 2011, allowing her to expand the operation. Although her intention at the beginning was to have horses, vegetables, fruit, and herbs, she eventually added animals to make the farm a more holistic system.
Gigi began with just a few goats to help manage her organic pastures and control weeds, but soon turned into a small scale dairy. Then, with the addition of her father’s 10-acre parcel, she established a small herd of hogs to remove invasive grasses, followed by laying hens. “I just kept adding elements,” says Gigi. “I realized I wanted to grow a microcosm of nature and manage it all in a way that it would be a self-sustaining circle.”
The farm is now home to six milking goats —mostly the Alpine breed, with a little Saanen. Her hog herd started with two Tamworth-Hampshire cross breeding sows and a Gloucester Old Spot-Large Black cross boar. Windflower Farm’s small flock of laying hens is a colorful mix of breeds, including Araucanas, Rose Comb Brown Leghorns, and Blue Andalusians, among others. They are kept in a large coop at night and are let out on pasture to scratch, peck, dust bathe and forage during the day.
“Pasture-based management is a no-brainer,” says Gigi. “I can control all the inputs. I know that even though I’m not certified organic, I manage my pastures according to organic principles and my animals are getting the best quality food. Being able to mimic their natural needs is so important. You can see when you let out chickens in the morning and they run straight out to the pasture that it’s what they’re meant to be doing.”
Gigi applied for AWA certification in order to distinguish her products from other farms. “As I got into livestock, I felt that what separated my operation from others was my relationship with my animals,” she explains. “I think it’s important that people know this. I have learned a lot about what my animals need and I can confidently say that they are happy and I do my best to understand and provide for their needs. Small-scale farming is financially challenging, so I hope that the AWA logo will alert current and potential clients to the superior care our animals receive, and will help them understand that compassionate husbandry translates into healthier and higher-quality products.”
Gigi’s long term goal is to make Windflower Farm financially sustainable. She also hopes to put her experience as a teacher of different disciplines to use as she makes the farm an educational space as well. “I want the farm to be a classroom that can set an example for people who visit of the potential for sustainable farming and local food in our community,” she says.
Windflower Farm’s AWA-certified eggs are available direct from the farm and through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Pastured pork and goat’s milk are available through a herdshare arrangement. Call or email Gigi for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 318-1417 or visit www.windflowerfarmbend.com.