Lauren Lucht is owner-operator of Northwest Transplants near Molalla, Ore., an agricultural service provider that contract grows seedling starts for growers all over the Pacific Northwest.
The farm serves more than 100 customers and produces more than 90 million starts each year and grows more than 100 acres of produce for local wholesale and retail distribution.
Her parents, Neal and Pamela Lucht, started Northwest Transplants the year she was born and she grew up alongside the business.
“Not many children are exposed to the joys and discomforts of entrepreneurship from such a young age,” Lucht said. “Vacations were always combined with business trips, but I got to experience agriculture all over the Pacific Northwest, in unique places and climates in our country as well as in other countries, which gave me a background of great agricultural diversity.”
Even with her upbringing, there’s no way to be prepared for the life of a farmer until you fully commit.
“College taught me a lot of best practices and sound methodology, but I learn something new every day,” she said. “The breadth of knowledge required is tremendous and important work that includes increasing efficiencies, making sound financial investments, keeping employees safe and happy, teaching others about the essential work of farming and caring for the precious gifts of land and water in order to protect resources and grow food.”
But there’s even more to it, she said.
“Farming is science, technology, math, precision, risk, reward, failure, success, love, faith and grace,” she added. “The preparation is never-ending and invigorating.”
This includes making the most of available resources including Oregon Energy Trust, Water Resources, Department of Agriculture and Oregon Farm Bureau, which provide training, information, resources, funding for projects and a greater voice in agricultural affairs.
She would also like to see more resources dedicated to agricultural and natural resource education to the public to increase their understanding of where their food comes from and what its production entails. Such goals require building relationships within the industry and beyond.
“Challenge yourself to reach outside your normal circle to people that have knowledge and ideas that are different than yours,” she advises, “and don’t risk it all on hemp.”
“Prepare to work hard at work and at life,” she said. “The work-life balance of a farmer is a challenge of its own that involves late nights, busy seasons, and work that has the potential to take lives if you’re not careful.”
Farming is not an all-or-nothing proposition, she said.
“Be prepared to forgive and to compromise,” she said. “Understand what your priorities in life are and build your work life around it. Lastly, choose your partners wisely and work hard at maintaining them.
“Many unnecessary costs and inefficiencies have been revealed during our 2020 pandemic,” Lucht said. “Its impact on the food supply will soon be realized and we will have to make some decisions on whether we want our food to be cheap or local.”
There is no reason, aside from government regulations, that local cannot also be available and affordable, she said.
“I love getting my hands dirty and feeling the accomplishment of a hard day’s work,” Lucht said. “I am grateful to be an important piece of the backbone of America and to live the legacy passed down by my family.”