Scott Byler is the owner of Delight Valley Farms and Saginaw Vineyards, which he runs with his family. The farm is located in Saginaw, right off the Interstate-5 exit. Aliya Hall/The Creswell Chronicle
In the age of corporate farming, Scott Byler said Delight Valley Farms and Saginaw Vineyards is one example of how a small family farm and vineyard can still be profitable. The farm has a total of 36.5 acres, and from U-Pick berries and raising lambs to establishing a winery – Byler has his hands in almost everything.
”The trick of the whole thing, with the angle of making it as a small family farm, is retail,” he said. ”I never thought of us that way, but we are. We take everything from the ground to retail, and we don’t have to give a cut to anyone else. (It) gives me the chance to have a smaller farm and make a living.”
Although he started to diversify over the years, when Byler first bought the land in 1991 he only wanted to sell wine grapes wholesale to wineries. At only 23 acres dedicated for grapes, however, he found it wasn’t enough land to do just that. Instead he started retailing grapes to around 35 home winemakers and making his own wine.
Byler said that he always had a garden and would can foods, and from there it wasn’t a big stretch to fermenting. Before the commercial winery, Saginaw Vineyards, Byler’s first wines were made from figs and peaches; he continues to experiment with fruits, creating blackberry, blueberry and Marionberry wine, along with the traditional grape.
Although the fruits aren’t just used in wines. Delight Valley Farms sells U-pick/We-pick berries, as well as retails jam made from the fruit.
”That’s where you’re going to get your money,” Byler said. ”If you’re going to sell carrots, you’re going to have to sell a lot and have a big farm. That’s hard to do unless you’re born into it. If I can take those same carrots and turn them into soup, now I have a product that’s worth ten times more what it was.”
He said the important thing to keep in mind with pursing value-added products is making sure the process to do that isn’t at a loss.
Byler also sells lamb meat on the side. He has around 40 ewes, all descended from the sheep his children had when they did 4-H. Until the past five years he only sold wholesale, but then started to add selling halves and whole lambs to customers. Then, in the past three years, Byler began to sell USDA inspected cuts of lamb. He said at this rate, it won’t be long before he stops doing wholesale entirely.
Delight Valley Farms’ whole operation works as a value-added experience. Right off the Interstate-5 in Southern Lane County, Byler planned his position to help his marketing appeal. A sign advertising complimentary tastings sits in his field next to the highway, and every Friday Saginaw Vineyard has its Friday Night Live, as well as events for wine club members.
”It’s been rewarding to see it succeed,” Byler said. ”It’s kind of a weird answer, but after 30 years: it’s there and it works. The next generation can take it on, and the next generation will take it on. It’s cool to create something that is a working business.”
Outside of making a living, he said his focus is on the actual farming. He has less interest in the people and finds the wine making to be straightforward, but it’s: ”being out there with the grapes and growing stuff.”