Historic Detering Orchards under new ownership
Owners plan to build on Detering’s family-friendly traditions
by Terah Van Dusen
Located in the rich, fertile farmland between the Curtis Slough and the Willamette River, Detering Orchards has been in business since 1934, making it one of the longest running family farms in the Willamette Valley. Now, after more than eighty years of farming, the Detering family has sold their business to an enthusiastic young couple from the greater Seattle, Washington area.
Stephen Demergasso and his fiancée Tina Dao are the proud new owners of Detering Orchards. The couple explained how Greg and Becky Detering sold them on the vision of the family farm and how they plan to, in their words, “build on that tradition.”
Long before living in San Francisco and Seattle, and before attending school and working as a Tax Accountant, Stephen Demergasso grew up not far from Detering Orchards – in a family of blueberry and hazelnut farmers.
Stephen Demergasso and Tina Dao were inspired by the existing business model at Detering Orchards, a business model in which families get the experience of seeing the animals and visiting with the farmers while stocking up on wholesome food. Dao, who is the owner of a successful Vietnamese restaurant in Washington, says she looks forward to “growing a healthy diet of fresh vegetables and fruit right here.”
Aside from its reputable peach and apple orchards, as well as offering a multitude of other fruits and veggies, the couple explained why Detering Orchards is so special to them: “The farm is family-friendly, it gets people outside, and essentially the entire farm is open to the public,” said Demergasso, “It’s not just a farm, it’s a lifestyle. We want to have that lifetime experience.”
“We feel blessed,” added Dao, “We feel very lucky to have this opportunity. Stephen’s worked really hard here, seven days per week. This is his baby. This is new to him, but he grew up on a farm.”
Detering Orchards contains 130 acres total, ninety of which are orchards. The operation employs a fulltime staff, some of whom have been working at Detering Orchards for decades. Demergasso is adamant about highlighting the value of the existing farm crew. “We could not do this without the Damian family. Detering Orchards does not use contract, temporary labor – this is the same crew and family who have been here for decades.”
While keeping the same crew, keeping the existing historical buildings, and keeping on the tradition of operating a fulltime, family-friendly farm – the young couple have implemented a couple of small but significant changes. First of all (and after months of consideration) the couple purchased a mechanical bull – a bull that seems to be getting a lot of attention already. The mechanical bull is expected to be quite a draw for adults, but with its 35 different speed settings, it is even appropriate for children who are five years or older, too.
The second major change is a partnership with Elk Horn Brewing and the conversion of an old barn into a tasting room. The tasting room, which is situated just a stone’s throw from the mechanical bull, will feature Elk Horn beer made with Detering’s very own apples, pears and peaches. The tasting room renovation will be complete as of Friday June 2nd, when Detering Orchards officially opens for the season, “We want people to be able to fill their entire fridges while they’re here, as well as sit back and have a beer,” said Demergasso.
Admittedly, the new owners have experienced some delayed planting dates due to the unseasonably late rains this year, but what farm didn’t? “We have really good crews that know what they’re doing,” Demergasso explained, “The orchards survived the ice storms with not a lot of damage.”
The farm will open as scheduled on June 2nd and will be open 7 days per week, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Visitors can meet the friendly Chester the Bull, goats Peachy and Blackberry, and visit Julie’s Chicken Coop. A wide assortment of vegetables, eggs, and other goods will be available throughout the season. In addition to being open daily, Detering Orchards is hosting several events this summer including “Working Women’s Wednesdays, Apple Daze, Pie Daze, and Dog Daze,” explained Dao. You can visit their website at deteringorchards.com for more information about the upcoming events and to learn more about the new ownership at legendary Detering Orchards.