ART BLOG article
Everyone is Creative: Rene & Mark Bennett of Bennett Urban Farm Store
René and Mark Bennett
This is the first in my new monthly blog, Everyone Is Creative (even if they don’t think so!). Each month, I’ll be interviewing a business owner, teacher, coach, or artist and asking them how they use creativity both in business and in their daily life. And, so I can keep my own creativity, I’ll paint a painting based on their work. Please feel free to submit any names of folks you think are approaching life in a creative way.
“Coffee With Her” 20 x 16 x 1 inch, mixed media on cradled panel. SOLD ©Annie Salness
After searching the internet, I came across this quote by Johnny Cash when he was describing paradise: This morning, with her, having coffee. What a perfect quote to be incorporated into my painting about Mark and René Bennett.
Years ago, soon after I had my stroke, I went to our local Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. I could smell the fresh coffee from Bennett Urban Farms. I was there by myself and sat down to listen to the local music. I had only one working hand plus my cane, so there was no way I could carry a cup of that delicious-smelling coffee. Then Mark Bennett shows up at my table with a cup of coffee, on the house. That generous and kind gesture made a huge impression on me. Since that day, I have watched Mark and René build their business. René makes wonderful jam and Mark roasts the coffee.
Here’s their story:
After years of selling our jams, and months of selling coffee to our friends and hearing that ” you really should try to sell to the public,” we decided to go for it. In June of 2012, we formed our company. That August, we realized that pairing our jams and coffee was a win-win. We signed up to sell at our first two Farmers Markets, Tualatin and Cedar Mill. Both markets were a success, and more importantly, we had a blast sampling out jam and roasting coffee on site!
Today we provide fresh, one batch at a time products. Our coffee is roasted in small batches that ensure a wonderful fresh flavor. Our jams are made a dozen jars at a time with the best berries that we can find.
What did you do before starting your company?
René: I used to work as a Speech Language Pathologist and substitute teacher in an Early Intervention Program serving children from birth to 5 years old. I worked with children with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities.
Mark: I worked for Fred Meyer for 15 years in virtually all departments, in many different stores in many different cities. Big stores, small stores, old stores, and new stores. I traveled in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska hiring and training employees. I also worked for the City of Beaverton in the Code Enforcement Department.
How did you get started in this business?
René: I have always been exposed to canning through my family. We always had a huge garden growing up and I have always enjoyed making and canning jams. People have asked for jams to buy as well as to give as gifts.
Mark: My daughter ordered me a small sample of raw coffee beans with the simple instructions to stir and shake in a hot pan on the stove until they turned a nice chocolate brown. Grind and brew. Delicious. But after smoking up the house for three weeks and timing my roasts with the smoke alarm, I was relocated to the backyard. I began ordering beans first a pound at a time and then 30 pounds at a time and selling to friends–and then 150 pounds and selling at Farmers Markets. In 2018, I roasted around 2,600 pounds of coffee that we sold at three different farmers markets and at four New Seasons stores.
How do you use creativity in your daily life?
René: I am always trying to produce homemade items. I try to use things in new ways (like turning treadle sewing machines into end tables, using buffets as tv stands, and painting furniture). I love to bake and am always trying new recipes. I also knit, sew, make cards, and recently purchased a vinyl cutter and heat press to create shirts, mugs, bags, and signs.
Mark: We created our company Bennett Urban Farm Store 8 years ago with the idea that one day we would have our own “country store.” We’re on our way!
René hauling beans.
This is their shed with a coffee roaster and lots of beans.
Mark, the Roastmaster.
Bennett Coffee at New Seasons Market!
A wonderful couple… Mark and René Bennett