Nathan and Jenna Tilley. Photo by Paul Neevel.

Nathan and Jenna Tilley

“We are just starting up with classes,” says organic farmer Nathan Tilley, who manages the Parker Learning Gardens on Rivers Turn Farm north of Coburg, along with his wife, Jenna Tilley. “Our first class, Soil Regeneration with Biochar Creation, is open to all and will happen every other Saturday. For kids, we are offering an after-school garden club starting in mid-March.” The Parker Learning Gardens were started by John Sundquist, co-founder with Jerry Rust of the Hoedads tree planting cooperative in the 1970s, and named after his wife Marsha’s parents. Her father Richard Parker was a microbiologist and an early advocate for the health benefits of microorganisms. Hundreds of elementary school students have learned about organic gardening over the years on field trips to the farm. Nathan Tilley was raised on Crossroads farm, just a mile away. After they planted an acre of hops, he and his brother Ben opened Agrarian Ales, a brewery and farm-to-table restaurant, on the farm in 2012. “I started working there as a dishwasher in 2015,” says Jenna, who grew up on a farm near Philomath. “I did every single position: bartender, server, kitchen staff. I ended up as general manager. We knew John and would drive over and trim his fruit trees in trade for apples and pears. We made farmhouse ales with fruit, chilis and other things we grew.” But the restaurant business was seasonal out in the countryside, and Agrarian Ales closed its doors in 2019. Nathan and Jenna got married in 2020, and they decided to take on the learning gardens after Sundquist’s death in July 2021. “We helped maintain the land for John for about a year before he passed,” Nathan notes. “Marsha lives in their new house, built in 2017. We live on site in the old 1910 farmhouse.” The learning gardens offer classes for school-age kids and community members from Eugene and surrounding areas. Learn more at