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Story #48Nature First Pest ControlPortland, OR

I said ‘there has got to be a better way.’ And there is.

Twenty-five years ago, Randy Witten of Portland, Ore., had just retired from his sales job at a large corporation when the discovery of a natural carpet cleaner sparked an idea. He believed that there was a market for nontoxic pest control and started Nature First Pest Control under the unexpected premise of putting nature first. Rather than relying on harmful chemical sprays, Witten took an integrated pest management approach, opting for a treatment method that focuses on altering the environment to make it less conducive for pests.

There couldn’t have been a better time or place. Portland, at the forefront of the green movement, was the ideal market for Witten’s business. He started running his small business out of the back of his truck, eventually hiring a small, close-knit team of employees who he thinks of as family. He views his customers the same way, and the most rewarding thing about his job is the positive feedback and relationships he forms with them. The importance of honesty and integrity was ingrained in him by his parents as a child. He says, “We were led down an honorable path, if you will.”

The honest approach is felt both in the methods Nature First Pest Control uses and in their small business mentality. Rather than signing large contracts requiring regular treatments and chemical sprays, Witten’s focus is on problem solving so that they only need to go to someone’s house once. In addition to cutting back on unnecessary chemical usage, Witten takes every detail of a house and yard into consideration before treatment, right down to the placement of a dog’s dish or children’s play set. “They’re literally trusting their kids and their ducks and their whatever [else] with me, and I take that very seriously.”

At 65, Witten recognizes that at some point he’ll need to step down, and he hopes to pass the legacy of Nature First Pest Control to one of his current employees. But before then, he’s interested in opening a couple more locations.

“I’m oriented to get things done; I’ve got to have a project. I’ve got to have something going on.”

Photos by Jared Moossy

  • An employee of Nature First Pest Control sprays an eco-friendly pesticide around the foundation of the home as a preventive measure for future problems with insects.

  • At 65, Randy Witten of Nature First Pest Control recognizes that at some point he’ll need to step down, but before then, he’s interested in the possibility of opening a couple more locations in the northwest.

  • The Nature First Pest Control team, from left to right: Dennis, Patrick, owner Randy Witten, and Michael. Witten thinks of his employees as family, and hopes to pass the company reins to one of them some day.

  • Patrick Bright, a Nature First Pest Control team member, enters a crawl space in a Tyvek suit to treat a house for rodents.

  • Randy Witten and Michael Peterson of Nature First Pest Control work simultaneously on two different areas of concerns to complete the job in a timely manner. Rather than signing profitable long-term contracts that call for unnecessary chemical treatments, Witten's company seeks to solve problems once and for all so that they only have to visit a home once.

  • Randy Witten, owner of Nature First Pest Control, heads out for a day of work. 25 years ago, Witten had just retired from a sales job at a large corporation when the idea struck him that there was a market for environmentally friendly pest control.

  • Randy Witten leaves his garage office to go out on several service calls with his employees. Nature First Pest Control takes an integrated approach to pest control, meaning they start with the environment and look for ways to alter it so that it isn't conducive to pests. They will only use chemicals as a last resort, and when they do they use eco-friendly substances.

  • Randy Witten calls a customer from his garage office in Tigard, Ore., to discuss the upcoming appointment and the necessary steps to prepare for his teams' visit. The majority of Nature First Pest Control's clients are homeowners.

  • Randy Witten talks to a potential customer about areas of concern and why the customer should take certain steps in order to control the annoyance before it becomes a problem.

  • Randy Witten and Michael Peterson drill small holes under the lap of the siding and fill them with an eco-friendly powdered pesticide made from flowers.

  • Randy Witten and Michael Peterson get ready to work simultaneously to eliminate an ant problem emanating from the side of the home.

  • Randy Witten assists Michael Peterson in laying some protective screening in certain places to discourage rats or mice from entering the property.

  • Randy Witten cuts copper to fill a hole that rats have been entering through. He says that when the rats chew through the copper it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth, which discourages them from trying to enter the property.

Business Details

Proprietor: Randy Whitten
12625 SW Katherine St. Portland, OR 97223
PH: 503-579-3680 / Website
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