Fort Vannoy Farms is a family owned farm established in Grants Pass by the Crouse family in 1923. The farm offers a wide range of feed silage, grains, and vegetables to both the consumer and commercial markets in Southern Oregon. The recent addition of new consumer oriented farm activities has brought them into the Agri-tourism business as well.
From 1923 until 1962, Fort Vannoy Farms operated as a typical farming and dairy operation. Bob Crouse took over the farm operations from his dad in 1962. Bob has adjusted to the changes in the farming and consumer market over the years. Shifting from a dairy operation to a produce farm was a major change for Bob. By leasing the dairy operation to another farmer Bob was able to focus more time on crop production for silage and grain products for the animals, as well as opening up the development of consumer and commercial produce production.
Growing organic crops has been a big step for the farm. Organic crops offer the producer a premium price, as long as the costs of production don’t exceed traditional crops. Bob’s relationship with the leased dairy operator provides a ready supply of organic fertilizer. Thus, Bob has been able to work at converting much of his crop production acreage to 100% organic with significant success.
Bob made plans to improve profitability by diversifying his farming enterprise, which lead him to a search for new niche and direct markets. With the help of the OSU Extension Service, he learned about specific crop rotations of higher value vegetable crops. The addition of large pumpkin crops and expansion of his corn fields lead him into the Agri-tourism business.
The Agri-tourism portion was born and became an important part of the farm’s income. The addition of the pumpkin patch lead to the Pumpkin Cannon and the Pumpkin Chunker event from late September through October. With this event, and the addition of the Corn Maze, Zip Line and Hayrides, Fort Vannoy Farms has become a local tourism destination in the fall.
Bob has taken advantage of the farm’s close proximity to the urban areas of Grants Pass and Medford by supplying high quality fresh produce that has given the farm name recognition and a loyal customer base. Fort Vannoy has transitioned from the one that Bob’s grandfather built eighty-eight years ago, to a new and diversified farm enterprise. Like other successful farms, the Crouse family has been nimble and strategic in their ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace.
Relationship with the Rogue SBDC
Bob started working with RCC Small Business Development Center in 2009 to help with the transition of the dairy operation to other farm production. “They have brought a fresh look. They may not know much about farming, but they know business and are helping me look at things differently.”
In 2012, working with SBDC advisors Ron Goss and David Tally, Bob received guidance developing a business plan and financial model to support an application for additional operating capital to fund the development of newly leased acreage.
Bob’s perspective on this experience - “They have helped me look at this as a business by working on my business plan, cash flow, marketing, and adding value to the farm. With their help on the business plan and cash flow, I was able obtain a large loan to help develop the additional 200 acres of unused farm land that I had leased from the City of Grants Pass.
”The biggest challenge the farm faces is marketing. “Growing crops is easy, that’s what I do. But most farmers aren’t marketers, and neither am I. Ron and David have been helping with marketing, and they’ve opened my eyes to other possible markets. With the addition of the Agri-tourism, I really needed the guidance they give for a ‘work in progress’ business plan”.
Bob and Fort Vannoy Farms also makes a major impact on the Grants Pass community through their work with the food bank and other community organizations helping those in need.
The farm produce stand is located at 5791 Lower River Rd, Grants Pass, or you can find them weekly at the Growers Market in Grants Pass and Medford. For a fun family experience, come see the Pumpkin Chunker cannon and Corn Maze in the Fall.
“Growing crops is easy, that’s what I do. But most farmers aren’t marketers, and neither am I.”
- Bob Crouse
- Fort Vannoy Farms