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Giusto Farms

As you head out towards the far northeast corner of Portland along Sandy Boulevard you enter an area of mixed use land where light industrial meets pockets of residential. It is in this direction, as you near Gresham, that you come across a few slices of the Old Country.

We aren't just talking Old Portland here - we are talking more Old World, as in Italy. And these slices are Italian farmers, still working their lands as they always have even as the world around them changes. One such farm is Giusto Farms.

Giusto Farms is manned by Augie & Dominic Giusto. Augie, as the senior Giusto, still rises most days as he has for decades to farm the acres of land his family owns in plots in and around the farm. He is joined by son Dominic, carrying on a tradition which is part of the backbone of the heritage of Oregon.

The primary face of Giusto Farms to those seeking an out-of-the-way experience is the farm's produce stand, housed in an old barn the Giustos reconditioned. This produce stand, open mid-July through mid-February of each year and staffed six days a week, primarily sells what the Giusto family harvests from their land. This can include, depending upon the season, pumpkins, basil, six types of beans (including fava), potatoes, corn, five types of winter squash, beets and fennel.

The interior of this fruit stand screams rustic even as you realize you are not too far from Interstate 84 as it whizzes cars to and from the Columbia Gorge. Old farm tools hang on the walls, bins of vegetables (and fruits purchased from other farmers) are everywhere for consumers to browse and handwritten signs tell you what and how much each item is. It all conveys a very organic sense of a family-run operation.

One particular item that stands out - both inside and out - of the working produce stand is the water-run barrel washer. This old contraption, about 12 feet in length, is fed vegetables picked fresh from the fields. As it turns, water washes the vegetables as they tumble down the washer's barrel to a waiting conveyor belt. It is from there that the Giusto family and their farmhands sort the produce for market.

In addition to the produce stand, the Giusto family also does a healthy fruit basket business during the holiday season with fruit purchased from other farmers. 

Augie Giusto, now in his early 70s, came over from Italy around 1950 after being adopted by his uncle, who needed someone to take over the family's Portland farming legacy. In addition to a farming relationship with another local Italian family - the Rossis - Giusto later purchased his current farm in 1989.

"We are a small farm," said Giusto in his noticeable Italian accent. "We always try to have quality produce."

It is this attention to quality produce that draws locals and out-of-towners alike to Giusto Farms. With much of their crop being picked and then placed into produce stand bins the same day, people keep coming back year after year to make a connection with the farmer whose hard labor and products of the earth they are purchasing. This ritual continues even as the world around them changes.

"It's not easy to farm in today's settings," said Giusto. "There are homes on both sides of us."

Most neighbors, he added, don't seem to mind having a piece of the Old Country in their back yard.