Excelsior Farm takes food full circle

EUGENE, Ore. -- Unlike those of large chains, the menu of the Excelsior Inn on 13th Avenue is dependent on what is growing on the restaurant's personal farm.

The Excelsior Farm was started by the restaurant's owner Maurizio Paparo in 2008 to help lessen the impact of rising food costs. Since then it has grown to not only supply the restaurant with fresh produce, but also sell vegetables at the Eugene Farmers Market and subscription-based Harvest Baskets.

Due to the small size of the farm, farm manager Jeremy Mueller can grow produce not found at the supermarket. Small scale and hand-harvesting allows him to grow red hard-necked garlic and native Miner's Lettuce.

"I'm pretty sure we are the only farm in the county growing these," said Mueller, who twice a week harvests, washes, and delivers eggs and produce to the restaurant.

Like a closed circle, that goes from the farm to the restaurant eventually returns to the farm. The compost used at the farm, made from coffee grounds, eggshells, and vegetable trimmings, is collected in buckets at the restaurant. Even bread scraps are collected to be fed to the chickens.

"When you bring the leftovers back to the farm and create compost, that product becomes food again months later. It truly is a circle of life," Paparo said.

During the more productive summer growing season, the Excelsior Inn only uses about a third of the produce grown on the farm. This allows the farm to sell the extra produce to the public in Harvest Baskets.

In addition to produce, fresh eggs from the farm's free-range chickens and bread made fresh by the baker at the Excelsior Restaurant can be added to the Harvest Baskets. More information on the produce baskets is available at the Excelsior Farm website.