DEXTER, Ore. — Early on a late-summer morning, a thin layer of fog hangs over the rows of corn, tomatoes and squash that line Maurizio Paparo’s five-acre farm in Dexter. The haze masks the brilliant colors of the produce, the reds of the tomatoes, the greens of the peppers.
“We have happy chickens and a happy farm just by creating the full cycle of life,” Papara said, describing the farm that produces the ingredients for the menu of the Excelsior Inn & Ristorante.
He bought the inn nearly 20 years ago, but didn’t start the farm until the recession started five years ago.
“The idea was — instead of investing money in the stock market where you had no control, no ability to know what they were going to do with it — I decided to actually invest it in my own property, my own business,” Paparo said.
He built a barn and greenhouses, then started laying out the crops he’d need for his restaurant.
“The intensity of a product that is picked within hours and eaten within hours is much greater than a product that’s been transported for 2,000 miles or been in a warehouse for two weeks,” he said.
On this morning, he picks his organically grown peppers, tomatoes, basil and onions to take back to the restaurant with him. He quickly uses those ingredients to create a locally sourced delicacy.
“I think even mentally and emotionally, we’re more in tune to change our palette when you’re told what you’re eating is just brought in from a farm,” said Paparo.
He admits the effort isn’t cheap, even saying the goal is just to break even. But Paparo knows for every dollars spent, there’s an added value.
“It definitely has a ripple effect,” he said. “It’s not a quick ripple effect like major corporation coming in and hiring 2,000 people. Our small world is actually a little more sustainable because you can actually add one or two people at a time and develop a much stronger foundation of a better local economy.”