“Do you have any special tips or tricks for cutting an onion and not crying?”
“Yeah..,” Larry says as he chuckles to himself, “be a third-generation onion farmer.”
Larry Standage looks exactly like how you might picture a third generation farmer. He’s tall, he wears good sturdy shoes, his shirt is always tucked in and he always has a baseball hat on his head to help protect him from the sun. He seems to carry a constant layer of dirt all over him and his hands tell the tales of countless hours of manual labor. Larry Standage is a farmer. He’s always been a farmer and he doesn’t plan on being anything else anytime soon.
Larry owns and operates Standage Farm, located about 4 or 5 miles West of Vale, off of Highway 20 in Eastern Oregon. Nestled right in the heart of Malheur County, is 1700 acres that the Standage family calls home and work. If you’ve ever driven through Bend to get to Idaho, Larry says that you’ve driven right past their place. The Standage Farm is about as far as you can get from the Willamette Valley while still being in Oregon. Their farm is so close to the Idaho border that they are technically in a different time zone than the rest of the state.
The land that Standage Farm sits on has been a part of the family for the last three generations, mostly. Larry’s grandfather moved to a farm down the road from where they are currently located back in 1947. Larry’s dad, Dorrance, grew up on that farm and then bought the current farm they are on when he was old enough to strike out on his own. His grandfather’s farm was unfortunately sold off to someone else, but the family eventually bought the land back a couple of years ago. Now his grandfather’s land and the rest of his family’s land has all been gathered together to make what Standage Farm is made of today.
Standage Farm produces corn, sugar beets, wheat, alfalfa, teff grass and last but not least… onions. They sell their corn to local feeders, they sell their sugar beets to a local sugar processor, and their grain is stored in one of their town’s local warehouses. They sell some of their onions to distributors on the East Coast, but their onions are probably the only thing they grow that doesn’t get sold solely to local distributors. The Standage family makes it a point to try to work with local people. Larry explains, “We prefer to do local business because we’ve worked with these people for so long. After several years of working with the same people, we’ve developed great relationships with them and know that we can count on them.”
The Standage family knows they can really count on one another when it comes to managing the farm. Everything the farm needs has become a family affair. Larry’s wife Patty runs the books for the farm, his son Joe helps with the transportation of the crops, and his daughter Jessica works on the packaging side of their crops production. Even his parents Dorrance and Darlene, who are both 81, have stuck around to provide invaluable farming wisdom whenever Larry may need it. During the interview, Larry told me that he and his father like to joke around by saying, “My dad has been farming for about 60 years and I’ve been farming for about 40 years. So, between the both of us, we’ve pretty much been farming for about a full century now.” Larry got a good laugh out of that. The rest of the workers at Standage Farm are made up of roughly 10 full-time employees. These people work year round and Larry regards that most of them have been working with them for so long now, that they too are considered a part of the family.
Larry and the rest of his crew start their days at 7 am. None of them are usually done until about 7:30 pm. He jokes that he and his crew work “half-days” with the punchline being that their half days are actually half of the 24 hour day. Larry says that the best part of his job is working with family members, working outside, and the sense of accomplishment he gets after doing a hard day’s work. The long hours don’t matter to Larry because he knows that he is doing something that he loves with the people he loves.
If you’re interested in contacting Standage Farms please call (541) 473-2127. They’re also listed in the Oregon & Idaho Fruits and Vegetables association guide.