Brian and Emily Lepore migrated with their two children, Gus and Claudia (and Bodhi the dog), from east-central Indiana to central Oregon in 2012.
Brian had spent the previous decade researching and teaching agricultural and environmental soil sciences and agroecology. During that time, he worked with many farmers in their fields conducting research ranging from soil water and nutrient movement to the impacts of different cover cropping systems. Working so much around farms, and with farmers, Brian fell in love with farming and together he and Emily, avid home gardeners, started entertaining the idea of building their own farm that implements many of the principle concepts of agricultural sustainability.
Not unlike many farmers, a big challenge for the Lepores to starting and running a farm was the need for off-farm jobs and trying to balance the time-demands of both. Brian’s job as a professor made farming full-time almost impossible, so after lots of late-night wine-infused discussions, they decided to make a change. In 2012, Brian left his job at Ball State University and the Lepores moved to Bend, Oregon, where Emily had found a job as a speech and language pathologist at St. Charles Hospital. Once they made the move, Brian started planning and looking for land to farm. In 2014, they started Golden Eagle Organics on two properties: a somewhat neglected 77-acre hay farm about 25 miles north of Bend, right on Highway 97, and a house with a few acres of pasture just outside Bend. The plan for the farm was to start with a mix of organic and conventional hay production and, over time, convert the Culver farm to an all organic pasture-based, rotationally grazed livestock farm, while the small amount of ground in Bend could be used for smaller, higher value projects like vegetables and eggs.
In 2014, a 5-acre pasture in Culver and the acreage in Bend were certified organic and 40 acres in Culver were planted to alfalfa and certified transitional-organic. In 2015, the first goats and sheep were purchased, 12 more acres of certified organic pasture were leased in Culver and Golden Eagle Organics began rotationally grazing and selling meat. After four years of growth, many factors–including the hour-plus commute for Brian, a family illness (Brian’s Dad) and the economics of hay farming–made it clear that a major tweak in the farm plan was necessary. In 2018, the haying operation was terminated, new livestock were purchased and the grazing operation was relocated to Bend. To accommodate the flerd (flock + herd), which is now at about 50 ewes and 25 does, two additional pasture properties were leased near the farm, both of which are now being transitioned for organic certification.
The Lepores recently gained Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) and Certified Grassfed by AGW for their sheep and goats. “During the growing season our lamb and goats are always out on pasture,” Brian explains. “During the winter, they have access to the outdoors and protection from the elements. We use a Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing system, known as MIRG, to maintain the health of our animals and our pastures and ensure the highest nutritional feed quality.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW lamb and goat meat (chevon) are available at the NorthWest Crossing Saturday Farmers’ Market in Bend, OR, at Central Oregon Locavore or directly from the farm on the northeast side of Bend. For more information, visit goldeneagleorganics.com. Contact Brian Lepore at firstname.lastname@example.org and 541-214-5467. To keep up with the latest farm happenings, follow them on Facebook.