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Lee Farms

The semi-urban farm is a phrase you don't usually hear said much as plows turn to scrap metal and fields turn into soccer parks in the name of development. Some farmers have figured out though how to live on the edge of an urban area and actually thrive by showcasing a lifestyle considered unique by condo and single family housing dwellers. One of these spots is Lee Farms in Tualatin.

Lee Farms sits in a part of the southern Portland Metro area which at the moment is more pasture than playgrounds. The Lee family has farmed in and around Tualatin since 1869, having seen some of their lands become developed. Erika Wilcott (Lee) is the sixth generation to pitch in raising pumpkins, Christmas trees and assorted berry crops. She's not alone in her endeavor, being helped out by four siblings and her father Craig Lee.

Wilcott grew up on Lee Farms, having helped out her father in tending to the various chores which make farm life romantic to some and a daily grind to others. She primarily runs the farm's country store now, which is open various days May through December. The country store is one of the first sights visitors are greeted by as they pull into the farm's driveway off of SW 65th Avenue and south of Interstate 205.

Inside the country store one finds the wonders of Wilcott's touches on the shelves and in the bakery case. She has worked hard to pull together a creative assortment of seasonal decorations, local produce, gourmet goodies, fresh apple cider and more. The bakery side of the operation turns out baked from scratch pies everyday like marionberry, raspberry and pumpkin as well as Lee Farms' signature apple cider doughnuts.

When Lee Farms first throws open their 12 acres of berry fields to u-pickers in June, juicy strawberries and raspberries hang on bushes waiting to be harvested by parents and their children. For those not wanting to do their own picking but still hoping for fresh berries the Lee family offers picked day of packed berry flats to go. This is on top of jams and jellies made from freshly picked berries. Those desiring other berry types will be happy to know Lee Farms also make available marionberry and boysenberry crops come July.

After a brief lull in which peaches and super sweet corn are available in the country store, October heralds the start of pumpkin season. This time of year is one of the farm's biggest, according to Wilcott. Lee Farms goes all out during this time of year, drawing from 20 acres or so of on-site pumpkins to create one heck of a pumpkin patch. Operating hours are extended, a farm animal display/petting zoo and hay maze open, hay and pony rides become available on the weekends and children flock to the farm on school tours which send every child home with a pumpkin.

Come late November and December, Christmas trees become the focus at Lee Farms. Over 25 acres of trees and holiday decorations galore in the country store help to set a festive mood. Fresh cut and u-cut Nobles and Grand Firs are available for selection and the farm offers a shaker to remove needles and bugs so you don't have a messy experience at home later. Trees can be wrapped in soft twine for easier transport and you can also take home a special tree stand which holds a large volume of water and fits any size tree trunk.

The true magic in Lee Farms, according to Wilcott, comes in just being able to make an afternoon out of enjoying the farm's rural setting so close to urban Portland.

"Its just being able to come out of the city and being able to hang out with your family," said the 25-year-old. "I couldn't sit in an office all day. This is something probably in my blood and what I like to do."