An Oregonian from Forest Grove, Matt Smith moved to Salem in November 2008 to work at Willamette Organics, a company established in 2003 to provide education, products, and services that enable farmers, nurserymen, landscapers, and home gardeners to eliminate toxic management practices and to improve food and plant quality.
With his diverse background in organic farming and other sustainability practices, Smith brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Salem area.
Originally a graphic design major at OSU, Smith’s year as an exchange student in France during college found him changing his major to French and then returning to France to teach English. His time in France had a profound influence on Smith; he started taking organic gardening classes, lived on different farms, and met his wife.
“Just living in France changed my life,” Smith explained.
In addition to working with Willamette Organics, Smith and his wife started Kitchen Garden Farms, LLC to set up vegetable gardens for families in their backyard, a model of backyard farming developed by Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter in Portland.
“We call it Kitchen Garden Farms because we are following the European tradition of growing a garden that is close and convenient to the house so that when you need to add something to a meal or want to know what to make for dinner you can just go out the back door and see what is ripe,” Smith explained.
While Smith grew up eating from his parents’ garden in Portland, he admits to not appreciating it much at the time.
“I used to roll my eyes when my parents would list everything at the dinner table that had come from the garden and they had to pay me for me to weed the corn,” Smith recalled. “Now I find myself naming what I brought in from the garden or what I was able to wild harvest for each meal.”
Smith has now been gardening for eight years and he has always gardened organically.
“I use organic methods because they produce the safest and most nutritious vegetables,” Smith said. In addition to gardening, he makes cheese, and has knowledge of beekeeping, natural building, compost tea technology, and permaculture, among other things.
Currently, Smith is also exploring becoming a teacher to allow him to incorporate his expertise in farming/gardening/sustainability into his lesson plans for elementary or middle school students. He hopes to use gardening as a hands-on learning experience to teach math, science, and even writing.
Ultimately, Smith is passionate about creating a culture that lives in abundance while improving the environment.
“This may sound idealistic and there are profound changes that need to happen for this type of culture to exist,” Smith acknowledged, “But after having lived and worked on projects that have this goal in mind, I find the only missing element is an awareness in the people that it is possible. As long as we tell ourselves the only way for humans to live comfortably on the earth is by destructive means, we will find it impossible to do anything else.”
Smith explained that he doesn’t want to see humanity protecting the planet from itself, but wants us to have an awareness that we are here to act as stewards of the land to make the environment healthier and more diverse than what it was before we got here.
He believes we’re already getting there, “I already see the shift happening in our general consciousness of the need to change our ways and that is exciting to me.”