Joe Napier of Coast Range Quail in Philomath describes contact with animals as “one of the biggest constants of [his] life.”
Born in Summit, Oregon to nature-loving parentsNapier watched his Dad raise animals like sheep, rabbits, goats, and chickens while His mom grew strawberries, raspberries, and fruit trees. His first job out of high school involved working with exotic animals, which took him to schools and exhibits from Southern California to Alaska.
His partner, Krystal Napier, was born and raised in Alaska. She is a “master with sourdough” with the “patience of a saint.” Their first date was a hike at Silver Falls.
The Napiers passed their love of nature to their children, Lucy (5) and Hank (4). In the spring, they plant. In the summer, they swim and garden. In the fall, they harvest and forage for mushrooms. In the winter, they fish and explore.
Introduction to Raising Quail
In the winter of 2020/2021 – as the pandemic was just beginning – friends gave the Napier family some quail eggs. “They were amazing and much bigger than I thought,” Napier says; within a couple of months, he ordered more to hatch.
“I have wanted birds for a long time,” Napier says. “Having fresh meat and eggs that come from birds that I know are fed and treated well means a lot to me.”
Quail need an aviary – an enclosed space where the birds can fly in safety – because they are not fully domesticated but can be easily contained to just one area. Both Lucy and Hank were involved in building the aviary.
“It took at least double again as long to build it with my ‘helpers‘,” Napier says with a laugh.
“All our hobbies take longer and suffer a lot of setbacks,” Napier says about getting his children involved in the family tasks. “But I would rather take the extra time and lose half my garden knowing that our kids are learning and enjoying the experience.”
And his goals for better adventures apply to the quail as well. For enrichment, Napier provides straw for the birds to scratch in, ever-moving log piles for them to investigate, and “dust baths” that protect the birds’ skin and feathers.
A Booth at The Market
By April 2021, the farm had “more eggs and birds than [they] knew what to do with.” one day, Napier struck up a conversation with the manager of the Philomath Farmers Market.
“Before I knew it I was signed up for a booth,” he says. “The following Sunday we were all set up for our first market day. It was kind of a disaster. It was pouring down rain the whole time, I barely had any produce, and my family was cold and wet. But I had a blast!”
Everything sold well, eggs and jellies being the most popular. Then, “the farm stand just kind of took on a life of its own. Every week there was more demand than I could keep up with.”
“I quickly realized I needed to come up with a real name and start a real business,” says Napier. And so, Coast Range Quail was born.
A Family Afair
Five-year-old Lucy takes it upon herself to harvest and package produce.
“She just wanted to contribute to the farm, but in the end has become quite the entrepreneur in her own right,says Napier. “She also hands out original art to market-goers, whether they want it or not.”
Four-year-old Hank loves to plant and pull weeds.
“Fortunately,” says Napier“he is getting better at telling the difference between weeds and the plants we’re trying to grow.”
Both children help to care for the birds and collect eggs – each with their own baskets for daily collection.
On Jan. 29, 2022, the Napier family grew by one with the birth of their second daughter, Azalea. Her job for the farm is to oversee napping for now.
Gratitude for the Past, Optimism for the Future
“Next season will be a whole different beast,” says Napier. “We are planting with an eye towards the market and have a better idea of what people are interested in. For produce, I’ve always gravitated towards unusual things that I can’t just run to the store and buy cheap.”
“Long term, I would like to find a self-sufficient way to feed [the quail] but that will take more than a quarter-acre lot in town.”
When Joe’s parents moved to Corvallis, his mom took a few raspberry starts with them. “They struggled along for ages but there really wasn’t a good spot for them at the house,” he says.
The last few canes are now thriving in Philomath.
By Grace Miller