In 2001, just a few months before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Nate Newsom married his wife, Janis, and immediately enlisted in the Air Force. During his time in the military, Nate served as a journeyman Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory technician and as a member of the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard.

After being honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2005, Nate decided to continue serving in his community, this time as a deputy sheriff with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

With nearly 10 years of dedicated service under his belt, the Newsom’s decided it was time to pursue their dream of developing a small family farm. Trading the arid Southern California desert for the fertile soils of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, they established Bear Branch Farms in 2015 in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range.

“My wife and I have always had a passion for gardening, cooking and supplying our family and friends with fresh foods,” said Nate, who became a father of nine last week with the birth of his son, Finnley. “This passion encouraged us to start Bear Branch Farms in October of 2015.”

Nate continued serving as a police officer in Oregon, but resigned after one year to work full time on the farm. In a matter of six months, the Newsom’s developed their farm from the ‘ground up,’ and by the Summer 2016 season were already serving about 50 families in their new community with a weekly box of fruits and vegetables.

Earlier this year, Nate applied to the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund and was awarded his request to receive a new Polaris Ranger thanks to generous support from Prairie Grove Farms.

“This Polaris is a total game changer and enabled us to more than double our customer base and production with less work,” said Nate, who cultivates about two-acres of his 17-acre property. “Additionally, it serves as a transportation vehicle while patrolling our camp sites, feeding animals and maintenance around the farm. Thank you!”

Now, finishing their second season, Bear Branch Farms is a certified-organic operation producing more than 80 types/varieties of veggies, fruits and herbs which they sell through their CSA and at local farmers’ markets under the Homegrown By Heroes label. In 2017, they served approximately 90 families, accepted SNAP/WIC benefits and grew for a local food pantry.

“We started our farm with the goal of supplying our local area with fresh, tasty, healthy food no matter their income level. We are excited about expanding and offering healthy, local, pesticide-free foods to more families each year.