Ken Sayer Farms
The Sayer family story is one of success through calculated risk and innovation. Ken Sayer’s great-grandfather, Robert, an immigrant from England, found his way to Oregon in a roundabout way. After befriending an injured veteran of the American Civil War, Robert brought his new friend home and helped on his family farm in Nebraska. Robert’s new friend eventually passed away due to complications from his injury and, as was the custom in those days, Robert married the veteran’s widow. Shortly thereafter, he and his new bride picked up their life and headed to Heppner, Oregon.
Ken’s grandfather, John, spent time hauling wheat in a Model T pickup truck from their farm near Heppner to the Willamette Valley as a young man. In the mid-1940s he took a calculated risk and purchased some less-than-ideal land outside of Brownsville, Oregon. This is the land that Ken’s brother, Jack, and nephew, Scott, still farm to this day.
Also in the 1940s, Ken’s father, John Richard Sayer, known to everyone as “Dick,” purchased the property where the heart of Ken Sayer Farms now sits. Ken, Jack, and their brother Robert were raised in the house on the property, which has since been rebuilt due to a fire. Dick farmed many crops including wheat, oats, crimson clover, ryegrass, sheep, turkeys, and put in the seed cleaning facility that is still in operation today.
A fourth generation farmer, Ken has lived and farmed just outside Brownsville for almost seven decades. He’s grown an innovative variety of crops from fodder beets and lesser-known crops like birdsfoot trefoil to radish, flax and lentils. In 1993, he took a calculated risk and joined the OMGA (now OMG) cooperative which had formed to commercialize meadowfoam. In fact, Ken was one of the signatories of the bank letter of credit to OMG, thus leveraging his family farm on the success of meadowfoam as a crop. He grows meadowfoam because it is a hearty crop, a trait that is very important on his land.
Ken’s son, Austin, returned to the family farm in 2001 after earning his degree in soil science from OSU in 1999 and spending some time working in other areas of agriculture. Austin intends to continue the Sayer Family legacy of farming in a transparent fashion. He is also a volunteer fireman and in 2012, completed the Annual Portland Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, a 40-story stair climb in full firefighting gear, to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 2013, Austin was elected to the OMG Board of Directors.
Pictured:Austin and Ken Sayer in their seed warehouse.