Erin McMullen, the owner of Rain Drop Farms, has held down a lot of jobs in her life. In her early years, she picked blueberries, drove a combine, and labored on an organic vegetable farm. She’s also waitressed (where she met her now husband) in an Italian restaurant and bartended at a sports park. These days, she’s settled into life as a farmer, florist, and mom of two.
After a stint in the retail nursery business selling ornamental potted plants that she knew were just going to wither away in people’s yards, Erin dedicated herself to the craft of growing vegetables and flowers. With some help from her husband Aaron, she started a small market garden in the backyard of their rental house and began selling her wares at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market 11 years ago.
After two years of searching for an affordable home with adjacent land for a small farm, Erin and Aaron finally found a run-down house in foreclosure full of someone’s abandoned ephemera. Through the piles of yard debris mixed with garbage, the couple saw some potential in the place, and they signed the deed.
With limited space for growing, Erin had to decide what products would thrive and what products would make be the most lucrative for her business. The area around their home was frequented by deer and was somewhat cooler in the shadow of Marys Peak than other parts of the county, limiting their potential crop choices. Though she’d always grown some flowers amongst her vegetables, the change fo venue prompted a significant shift toward dahlias and other deer resistant ornamentals.
In the almost ten years that Erin and Aaron have been in their home, they’ve managed to tame some of the brushier areas of the yard into garden plots, raise a greenhouse, and gut and remodel most of the interior of the house itself.
They’ve also produced two spunky, dirt-loving boys, Emmitt (4) and Cedric (1 1/2).
Erin’s business model has changed over the years. She started off selling mostly at the local farmers’ market, but as competition of flower vendors grew, her market share waned. She has since moved on to dealing mostly with wholesale clients like a couple of the local grocery stores.
Erin also sells bouquets in the flower stand at the end of her driveway. With a few notable exceptions, she’s been pleasantly surprised by people’s honesty when using the self-serve system. Though she doesn’t often interact with her customers this way, she has had the pleasure of witnessing a guy riding his bike down the highway with a giant bouquet of flowers sticking out of his backpack, and she knows that her neighbors regularly stop in to grab some freshness and color for their homes.
Erin’s small farm is home to not only her and her family. There are also a number of free-ranging chickens and ducks wandering through the rows of blooms, and a couple (non-free-ranging) sheep are there to keep them company. In addition to the deer, various other wild animals pass through the property, too.
Rain Drop Farms’ gorgeous bouquets are available at:
The Rain Drop Farms flower stand west of Philomath, OR on Highway 34 near Decker Rd.
Erin also bouquets for Gathering Together Farm.
Special thanks to Erin for the tour of the farm, Aaron for the delicious dinner, and Emmitt and Cedric for sharing their toys with my kids.