Sitting on the front porch of the North Fork 53 guesthouse in Nehalem, OR looking out at all the blossoms in the garden feels extremely refreshing. Just like the cup of warm green tea I am about to share with owners Ginger & Brigham Edwards.
The Tranquility Jasmine Pearl Chinese Green Tea steeps in a kettle awaiting first pour. Our cups, sitting there together, resting side by side as we chat about the sustainable garden merely feet away.
On first arrival Ginger, wearing a large brimmed tan sun hat with auburn curls poking from beneath, was in her beloved garden picking Calendulas. The basket is draped around her arm full of the fresh pickings.
Brigham meets me in the driveway along with their friendly farm dog Roscoe who is speckled with long grey and black fur. I say hello to Roscoe first, watch Brigham remove his hat and then shake his strong working farm hand. I notice his brown t-shirt says “Pot Head” on it right over a beautifully drawn teapot. The kind you’d see on Grandma’s table. The man must be serious about his tea.
I walk through the archway of green foliage down the pathway towards the house where we meet Ginger. She is doing what she loves, farming, foraging, gardening, creating sustainable habitats and ecosystems. Care for the environment runs through her blood.
Upon reminiscing my first sights of North Fork 53, the effervescent smell of green tea travels from cup to mouth, to soul, opening my ears and my senses to the wonders of this place.
“This whole front yard used to be grass,” Ginger says waving her hand towards the batches of flowers that at the moment are unknown in name to me. I think I see a cauliflower in the distance but must ask. Ginger laughs, “I’ve been a vegetable farmer for the last ten years so I just can’t help but throw them in here and there throughout the garden.”
Pathways curl and line the garden beds holding more flowers, delightful vegetable finds, herbs and just a few green tea plants. When talking about green tea Brigham adds, “It’s the most permeable plant on the planet.” His knowledge expands deep into the root of tea after going through herbalist school.
Ginger has spent the last ten years farming in the Nehalem Valley. In that time she has trained over 100 other young farmers in the skill and art of vegetable farming. They are also a part of the North Coast Food Trail which helps Oregon visitors find their way through farms, restaurants, and producers of our regions finest ingredients and flavors.
The Edwards are in the process of expanding North Fork 53 into curating, growing and harvesting their own tea. 53Tea is what it will be called once the crops of Camellia Sinensis mature.
Beyond the Edwards plans of cultivating tea, there are less than 20 tea growing operations in the entire country. Tea is mostly an export good, gets shipped in and then is processed here in the U.S. to be sold to consumers. But growing the tea, harvesting the tea leaves, then processing it all right here in Clatsop County is the goal of 53Tea.
I continue to sip from the fresh tea mug on the front porch learning and listening to the stories and rich history of this place. Ginger and Brigham have been operating a sustainable farm for quite a while now.
North Fork 53 is first and foremost a bed and breakfast/retreat center. Guests or groups of up to 25 can stay in the newly renovated guest house which the Edwards spent an entire summer remodeling. There is even a fully functioning sauna on site mere steps from the Nehalem river that passes by. The house has a history rich and full of farming. It was an 1895 homestead, the first in the Nehalem Valley, and back in the day provided dairy for Tillamook Cheese.
The touches inside the guest house lean toward sustainability with repurposed wood from around the Nehalem Valley. Sprinkles of decoration connect into the artistic world. Like a four-foot long old picket fence line hung up on the ceiling to hold lights over the tea drinking area.
Most of all North Fork 53 is about providing a space for relaxation, submersion with nature, and education about sustainability and the environment. Ginger happily walks me through her garden showing me all the different types of plants that she has planted.
“This is how our garden tours will go,” Ginger says as I get to see an up close and personal a real-life Camellia Sinensis. I get to touch the shiny green leaves for the first time connecting the tea I drink to a plant in the ground. I am learning through Ginger’s passion.
Guests begin to arrive and it is about time for my exit, but I don’t want to go. I have so enjoyed my time at North Fork 53 that I eagerly start following their Instagram account @NorthFork53 so I can keep up to date on all the projects and beauty that will continue to blossom at this place.
As I leave, Roscoe, Brigham and Ginger stand waving as I pull out and around their big red barn to get back onto Highway 53. I look in the rearview mirror, smiling at my new friends. It’s always so nice to be welcomed into someone’s heart and home.