Retailer: Linnton Feed & Seed

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Linnton Feed & Seed was the 2014 Local Hero Award winner in the Retailer category. Read about the Local Hero Awards and the nominees.

Linnton2Since opening in 1946, Linnton Feed and Seed has seen its fair share of change – from ownership transitions to the shifting landscapes of farming and raising livestock. But through it all, the store has remained a vital source of farm and animal supply for area farmers and gardeners.

Current owner Dan Cadmus took over the store in 1997, bringing with him a lifelong knowledge of farming and animal husbandry. Dan transformed the store from a chemical-heavy, conventional outpost to one with a vision for sustainability, stocking the shelves with organic and high-quality products that would benefit both farmers and animals in the long run.

We sat down with Dan and Lisa Erenyi, manager of Linnton’s urban spin-off, Dekum Street Doorway, to learn more about the store’s role in the local farming community.

 

What is your background, and how did you get started with this store?

Dan: I grew up on a farm east of Salem, back in the day when they had diversified farms – we had pigs, cattle, sheep, and many different crops. The kinds of farms you read about in storybooks. I spent most of my life working on farms and ranches. I worked for Foster Farms’ feed mill in Hillsboro, and then I went to work for Archer Daniels Midland. I also worked as an animal nutritionist and went to Peru with the Peace Corps in the 1970s. One day, I found this store for sale and falsely presented myself as a potential buyer, in hopes that a rich man would buy it and then hire me. That’s basically what happened. The new owner didn’t really have a retail personality. So he offered to sell it to me, and I bought it from him in 1997.

 

What have been your most notable accomplishments with the store?

Dan: There are three areas that I immediately think of when I consider my time here. When I first started, we didn’t have chicks – you had to special order them. I brought in the first chicks in 1998, and it’s been a really popular program since then. Second, you couldn’t walk down the gardening aisle without gagging because of the chemicals. We are now much cleaner, and we carry organic fertilizer, soil, and other products. The third is our quality of hay. We started bringing in high-quality hay from Eastern Oregon. It took me two or three years to explain the math to people, because although it appears to be more expensive, it’s not in the end. The hay is a good example of the overall change in the quality of our products.

Lisa: One of the main things that Dan does is share his knowledge and understanding of animal care with local farmers. Anything from isolating possible problems or health issues to how to treat them and feed them. Dan has a great deal of experience, and he’s always ready and willing to share his knowledge with anyone who needs it.

Linnton-chicks-300x200Can you give me an example of something about your store that brings you pride?

Dan: We set up a lot of people in the chicken business, so at certain times of the year, we have customers whose chickens are producing more eggs than they need. So they sell them to us, and we sell them to our customers. Once the refrigerator gets so full that we can’t hold any more, we donate them to Sisters of the Road Café. So far this year, we’ve given away 150 to 200 dozen eggs.

 

What’s your favorite part about working here?

Dan: My absolute favorite part of the job is the people. I’ve got kids coming in now who I remember when their mothers were pregnant with them. We’ve got older people who have been trading here for 40 or 50 years, and their parents before them. We’ve got people whose families have been coming here for two or three generations. And that’s great. I love that.

Linnton20Who are your customers?

Dan: I guess you would call them the smaller farmers and gardeners. The economics of farming have come to the point where the bigger farms go directly to the source, buying straight from the mill instead of going to a feed store. We do a lot of trade with CSAs and organic farms, and with people who are turning their backyards into beautiful gardens.

Lisa: Last year, we opened a satellite store closer in, the Dekum Street Doorway, so we could accommodate our urban customers. It’s a 3,000-square-foot lot with a little teahouse and a tent for the feed and dry goods. It’s a little like walking into a garden. Opening it was a customer-based decision, so that they don’t have to drive as far.

 

Is there anything in the farming field that is particularly encouraging to you?

Dan: The general trend toward turning your average seed lot into a vegetable garden or chicken yard is a great thing. The enthusiasm, curiosity, and desire to succeed are all great attributes of the many people who are getting involved in farming.

linnton-featureLinnton Feed & Seed
10920 NW Saint Helens Rd
Portland, OR 97231

Dekum Street Doorway
728 NE Dekum St
Portland, OR 97211

Photos by Nolan Calisch, courtesy of Linnton Feed & Seed

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