Urban Agriculture visits in Portland, Oregon
August 16, 2016
Irregardless Cafe owners Chef Arthur Gordon and his wife Anya vacationed in the Portland Oregon region this summer, for lots of reasons –
First of all – the weather is cool there!!
Next, Portland is known for it’s great restaurants, proximity to Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Wineries and for the City’s early support for urban agriculture. The Gordons certainly enjoyed wonderful meals and plenty of wine!! and also explored Portland’s lead in urban agriculture.
Irregardless Cafe’s Well Fed Community Garden is an example of Urban Agriculture in Raleigh, and the Gordons were eager to learn more about Portland’s accomplishments. They contacted the City of Portland’s ‘Food’ specialist Steve Cohen who gave them a tour of thriving urban agriculture ventures and community gardens around the City.
Urban agriculture as a movement became popular in the United States and Canada in the 1990’s – it has been a part of European and Asian culture through out the ages. Witnessing and cultivating vegetables and fruits has many benefits – folks tend to eat more of them which reduces heart disease and diabetes. Community Gardening provides a place for people to gather and create community and it also provides an easy form of exercise.
The Gordon’s first stop was the Zenger Farm in South East Portland. Founded in 1999 on four acres of land, it cultivates a large variety of vegetables and fruits, laying hens year-round and turkeys seasonally, as well as raising bees for the production of honey and the pollination of annual and perennial food crops.
The Zenger Farm is partially funded by the City of Portland. It offers agricultural classes, provides a CSA and a chicken cooperative, as well as working with immigrant farmers and offering cooking classes. “It’s anything we can do to give people more choices in the food system,” says Cohen. This working urban farm promotes and educates on sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all. It illustrates the City’s commitment to educating its residents.
The Ariadne Garden is a double lot located in the heart of NE Portland. Established in 1993, it is now managed by the Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust. Some of the healthiest soil in Portland is found here, nurturing the most delicious food available. Ariadne is a self-sustaining retailer, selling its own flowers (peonies, roses, yarrow, lilies, gladiola, zinnias) and produce (tomatoes and starts, lettuces, escaroles, mustards, kales, beans, squash, raspberries, etc.) to those who visit its onsite produce stand.
Operated by volunteers – from the neighborhood and the city at large – each person contributes their skills and passions. The Ariadne is a site of research, teaching, sharing, and discussion: learning, building community and eating well.
At the Cully Neighborhood Farm in North East Portland, the Gordons’ met Matt Gordon who has operated this one acre urban farm sustainably since 2010. That day they also met Josh Volk who was helping out. Josh is an acclaimed small farms advocate, who is writing a book on Urban Agriculture. This farm exists with its partnership to a Lutheran Church, on whose land they farm. Matt and Josh affirm that growing healthy vegetables and fruits in a healthy soil ecosystem creates neighborhood-level sustainability and self reliance. These are some more benefits of urban agriculture.
The last visit on the Gordon’s tour was the ‘Side Yard Farm’ also in the NC Cully neighborhood of Portland. This urban agriculture venture was founded in 2009. It provides local restaurants with organic produce and the neighboring community with food, education and community involvement. Side Yard is cultivated by volunteers and interns who gain hands on experience growing produce.
The ‘Side Yard’ is also a catering company and supper club. Since Irregardless Cafe has a large Catering Division, the Gordons’ were excited to learn that ‘Side Yard’ hosts Farm Dinners – as a way of connecting the community to the joy of growing food ethically and sustainably.
Chef Arthur enjoyed exchanging experiences with Stacey Givens, ‘Side Yards’ farmer and chef. She is the founder of the first ‘urban’ Seed to Plate catering company and supper club in the Portland area. All Stacey’s meals source ‘Side Yard’ grown goods as well as ingredients from other urban farms in her ‘hood’: goat milk, eggs, honey and fruit. Her cuisine is urban craft all the way. Making her own cheese, charcuterie, vinegars, pollen, spices and pickles. Stacey’s inspiration for getting her hands in the soil began when she was cooking at a restaurant that had the first rooftop garden of its kind in Portland.
Chef Arthur and his wife Anya were inspired by Portland’s vision – to promote urban agriculture. Many of their citizens are now connecting with the soil and cultivating produce sustainably and ethically – and are happier and healthier for it!
The Gordons are also truly appreciative of Steve Cohen’s assistance, with whom they became quick friends. They look forward to hosting Steve in Raleigh in the near future.