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The Barn: Deeply rooted in Mid-county


The Barn’s Sheila Trapold holds (barely) a huge cabbage grown at Trapold Farms’ Sauvie Island operation. A Mid-county mainstay for decades, people come from miles around to buy their produce at The Barn.
Photographed at The Barn in 1987, from left to right are: Jan Thayer; Tim Trapold, Tom Trapold’s nephew; Sheila Trapold; Tom Trapold behind son Michael Trapold; Elly Trapold; and Gloria and Ed Bradford.
Submitted Photos
Ask anyone in mid-Multnomah County where The Barn is located and they’ll tell you on Northeast 148th Avenue between Airport Way and Marine Drive. It’s where folks from all around come to buy produce during the Northwest’s bountiful harvest season.

Second generation farming family members Tom and Sheila Trapold are the current owners and operators of The Barn. Simply put, Tom Trapold does the farming and Sheila operates The Barn. The Trapold family began farming in the 1930s, and now the third generation is involved in the business of producing food.

The Trapolds’ parents, Alfon and Elly, started farming in the 1930s. Elly Trapold arrived in Portland from Germany in 1926. On the ship coming to America, she met Alfon Trapold, who was headed to Detroit, Mich. The two corresponded, and two years later Alfon moved to Portland and married Elly.

Alfon began farming in this area by custom farming for local landowners, taking his team of horses and plowing, tending and harvesting other people’s land. Trapold custom farmed patches of land just east of 90th Avenue.

Shortly he began acquiring land himself “as he could, here and there,” Sheila Trapold said. The land was located along the Columbia River just east of the Portland International Airport. Ultimately, Alfon Trapold would stop farming other people’s land and begin in earnest to create Trapold Farms.

At first, Alfon Trapold sold his produce wholesale by bringing it to the Gardeners and Ranchers Association wholesale market at Southeast 10th Avenue and Belmont Street.

“He took the produce down to the market and sold it right off of the back of the truck,” Tom Trapold said. Before massive wholesale produce distribution warehouses, firms like Safeway and Fred Meyer would come to the Gardeners and Ranchers Association market to buy what they needed.

All of the five Trapold children helped out on the family farm as they were growing up.

Daughter Gloria Trapold, who would become Gloria Bradford, was known as the pumpkin lady in mid-Multnomah County and operated Trapold Farms Pumpkin Patch in the fall. She passed away in 2004.

Son James Trapold and daughter Sharon Trapold, who would become Sharon Shaw, moved on to other ventures.

Only Tom and brother Alvin “Bill” Trapold stayed on to farm. Bill retired about 10 years ago, when Tom took over completely.

But the biggest transition for Trapold Farms was the passing away of patriarch Alfon Trapold in 1982. Son Tom took on the task of running the farming operation.

“I became president of Trapold Farms, Inc. one Sunday afternoon in 1982,” Tom Trapold said, “and basically not knowing who to pay the rent to, where to get the stuff from.” Tom admitted that the transition was not that drastic, and that he had already a good deal of knowledge of farming, and of doing some of the selling of the produce. Over the years, The Barn’s operation grew. At first, just a few neighbors would drop by the old animal barn to buy produce. Now literally thousands come from all around the Portland metropolitan area to buy produce and more from the Trapold family.

For the past few years, the Trapolds have been edging away from selling their produce wholesale to selling it retail at The Barn.

“That’s what we tried to do last year,” Tom said. “I kind of had a retirement thing going, but with the economy, it didn’t work out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a real crop farmer, (or if) your farm is five acres or 500 acres; you always have to be there. You can’t take a week off and go fishing; you can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter the size of the operation. And if I’ve got to be there 24/7, I might as well farm 200 acres as opposed to 100 acres.”

“And if you don’t have enough acres,” Tom continued, “you can’t keep enough help to do what you want to do, versus if you have more acres, there’s always something for them to do.”

As the years passed, another evolution for Trapold Farms occurred. The farmland in Mid-county was sold bit by bit to become part of the Airport Way industrial and commercial district. The Trapolds now own farmland on Sauvie Island north of Portland, farming approximately 400 acres.

In fact, during the transition, from 1994 — when the Trapolds first purchased land on Sauvie Island — to 2000, Tom Trapold said he farmed at both locations. He would haul farming equipment between outer Northeast Portland and Sauvie Island.

Now the Trapolds farm exclusively on Sauvie Island, with The Barn operating as the retail side of the Trapold Farms, Inc. business. The Trapolds use environmentally safe farming practices and are good stewards to the land.

As with other local farmers, what they predominantly grow are vegetables, with most fruit coming from Hood River and other outlying areas.

To quote the Web site, “We open right after Memorial Day with strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and all your early salad fixings as well as beautiful hanging baskets, annuals and bedding plants from our own greenhouses. From early June the season comes into full swing with berries, cherries and every other fruit and vegetable you could want (for) your eating and preserving desires.” The Trapolds are also proud of their “super sweet corn in yellow, white and bi-color.”

Also available seasonally at The Barn are items for decorating, such as a wide variety of pumpkins, corn stalks, gourds, ornamental corn and the like.

Trapold Farms specializes in brussels sprouts (still on their stalks) and nearly two dozen varieties of hard-shell winter squash.

Then there’s the gargantuan heads of cabbage.

The Trapolds provide cabbage to the Verboort Sausage and Sauerkraut Dinner, held for the past 74 years on the first Saturday in November in Verboort, three miles from Forest Grove. Last year over 8,000 people attended the affair.

“I always grew kraut cabbage for The Barn,” Tom Trapold said, and it was through networking that an official from the Verboort Sausage and Sauerkraut Dinner approached Trapold to provide the kraut cabbage.

“They called and asked me, ‘Would you grow us 20,000 pounds of kraut cabbage?’ and I said yes.”

Tom Trapold said the particular variety of kraut cabbage is “a dryer cabbage, a bigger cabbage, a whiter cabbage.”

Trapold Farms grows enough for the Verboort dinner and for sale at The Barn.

Sheila Trapold has been asked over the years why her family doesn’t do a farmer’s market.
“This is a farmer’s market,” she exclaimed, “every day!

“I’ve worked so hard at The Barn,” Sheila Trapold said, “and it’s so successful, and I would like somebody to manage it so I could have more time, but I don’t really want to sell it,” she said in response to customer queries she receives regularly. “I want everyone to know we’re not planning to close.”

For the past few years, the Trapolds have been edging away from selling their produce wholesale to selling it retail at The Barn. The original site of The Barn was near Northeast 130th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. Retail sales began in the 1940s at The Barn, which was an actual working animal barn with dirt floors.

The Barn really responds to customer demand for pickling cucumbers, so much so that they offer everything from cucumbers to pickling ingredients, canning jars and recipes.

“There are no more pickle plants here in Oregon,” Tom Trapold said, “so nobody grows pickling cucumbers anymore. It’s a tough one to find. We are one of the major suppliers locally of pickling cucumbers.”

“Pickling cucumbers and kraut cabbage,” Sheila added. “As soon as we open for business,” Sheila said, “I start getting telephone calls from people asking about cucumbers. Cucumbers aren’t harvested until the end of July, but people want to be placed on a list to receive our pickling cucumbers. There is standing room only when Tom brings (them) in.”
Tom and Sheila’s son Michael Trapold operates greenhouses on Sauvie Island, where bedding plants are grown, along with starts for various vegetables.

“It’s a very lucrative business,” Sheila said of Trapold Greenhouses, with a dozen greenhouses. Michael supplies all the bedding plants and flower baskets for The Barn and is also a supplier to Portland Nursery, Dennis’ Seven Dees and Growers Outlet. He also supplies others around the region.

He’s not planning on being the third generation farmer, though, according to Sheila Trapold.

“That’s his thing,” she said of his greenhouse operation. Sheila admitted it was basically farming, and that “he got it from his dad.”

As for the future, Tom Trapold said that, “as long as Sheila operates The Barn, I’ll operate the farm. When and if she decides to sell it, retire it, lease it, rent it — it’s entirely up to her — when that happens, then I won’t farm.”

“He can’t stop farming,” Sheila said of her husband.

The Barn is located at 5211 N.E. 148th Ave. and is open after Memorial Day until Thanksgiving, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 503-253-5103.
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