Today on Foodie Friday, meet Burke Deming, farmer and owner of Olequa Farm in Winlock, Washington. Burke’s been farming for many years and got into the weekly subscription/delivery business before it was popular. Oh, and he’s Food PR & Communications founder, Mary Deming Barber’s brother.
What is your role in the food industry?
I own and operate a small produce farm, Olequa Farm, in Lewis County, Washington. We raise fruits and vegetables in a sustainable manner on a 100-year-old farm on the banks of Olequa Creek. I deliver CSA subscriptions to 32 customers between Chehalis and Longview. Most are individuals, but we also deliver to a restaurant and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe elder lunch program.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
I’ve always been interested in food, beginning with jobs in a deli and catering company while I was in high school. I majored in agriculture at Oregon State University where I became intrigued with the idea of living on a farm. My grandparents bought this farm while I was in high school, so I spent a lot of time here, and later moved to the farm to help as they aged. I love it here and especially getting my hands dirty in the soil.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
I would have to say my grandparents, and probably also my mom. Food has played a central role in my family. Whether it was u-pick berries followed by jam making, Christmas baking traditions or sharing of nearly any meal with friends who stopped by, memorable moments and discussions always seem to occur around the table, or at least around a meal.
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
The growth in the popularity of locally-sourced and grown foods has allowed me to do what I want to do. At the time, I wish more people, especially in urban communities, understood what we do and how food get to their table. I really enjoy when friends stop at the farm, especially if they have young children, because I love sharing what I do with anyone who will listen.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
The organic movement has changed how we farm, how many Americans eat and really the entire food industry. Each year I’m amazed at the growth and changes in the field, and the additional restrictions and regulations the state and federal government put in place that make it harder for me to make ends meet.
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
When I was 16, got a job at Yours Truly Catering in Portland. I worked with the 90-year-old owner, Ruth Bentley, who taught me to make simple food beautiful. The lessons she taught me still resonate today.
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
Ice cream! Since I was a kid, Baskin-Robbins has been worth the extra money. It still is.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to-date as a food professional?
My greatest accomplishment is starting a CSA program before it was popular. Today I’m serving local residents, a restaurant and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s elder facility. Each year it’s a challenge to figure out how to grow the right amount for my customers but definitely worth it.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
I really enjoy making melon sherbet from the melons in my garden.
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
Prime rib. Any day.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Sugar. Butter. Coffee.
What food or meal makes you happiest?
When we were in Hawaii celebrating our 30th anniversary my nephew’s wife made a meal we all helped put together without measuring anything. We were also drinking wine. Veronica has a unique relationship with food. Anything she cooks is amazing.
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you and why?
Getting back to the family as the core, my sister compiled a cookbook after my mom and grandmother passed away. It’s something I almost always turn to when I’m cooking because it includes two plus generations of family favorites. Both my kids are now using it too.
Where would you most like to live? Why?
I would love the live on a farm in Hawaii. The clean air is amazing, and food so fresh. Plus, the “aloha spirit” is definitely something to live around.
Please describe your perfect day.
My perfect day is at any beach with my wife. It’s warm and neither of us has our cell phone.
Tell us about your favorite vacation destination.
My nephew Billy’s house on Kauai. I enjoy the climate, the beaches and my family there. Plus, there’s a lot to do.
Connect with Burke:
Website: Olequa Farm
Some photos used by permission from Carole Hammond