Archive for the ‘Meet the Farmer’ Category

Farming is easy to understand, as we’re often told we’re a nation of farmers, plus we can understand the concept of farming: Tractor, hard work and one can reap what they sow. Non-profit organizations are a bit more difficult to grasp, they’re companies, owned by no one, usually small, almost always entrepreneurial, fueled by passion to create change for the better and dedicated to the greater good. Even though they aren’t always understood, more people work in the non-profit sector in the US than are engaged in farming. By a factor of 5.

Portland Farmers Market is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote regional agriculture and create community spaces. PFM isn’t the only non-profit looking to address issues in agriculture, Food|Waves, a non-profit with a farm located in Colton, Oregon is helping train the next generation of farmers.

Matt Brown, Chief Operating Officer for Food|Waves spelled out the need for new farmers this way, “During the 1930s, about 25% of the U.S. population lived/worked on 6,000,000 small farms. By 1997, less than 2% of the population lived/worked on 157,000 larger farms. In 2010, the average age of a farmer in Oregon was 57.5 years with only 2.8% under 35 years of age. One problem is that the government subsidies heavily support corn, soy, and wheat grown with intense chemical use- and small farms can not compete with the larger farms. Honestly, I think the main problem is not getting young people interested, but getting young people trained. The cost of land, equipment, and education makes it difficult for someone to start their own small farming business.”

Greens of the Purple Variety

After Matt and his wife, Bobbie met Food|Waves partner Nathan McFall in Togo during a stint in the Peace Corps, the three began discussing the idea of working on an educational farm together. This was in 1999. Matt went on to become a Marine Science/Environmental Horticulture teacher, Nathan an organic farmer, they reunited to create Food|Waves, Again Matt Brown, “We started Food|Waves to promote local, organic food as a long-term solution to many environmental problems facing the world’s water, soil, and people. As a non-profit, we are training the next generation of organic farmers/gardeners and educating community members about the enormous environmental impact of industrial mega-farms, as well as, teaching those same community members how to grow their own food organically.

Food|Waves, has partnered with Converging Creeks Farm to create a hands-on learning environment for apprentices, interns, and volunteers. If you visit the farm, then we are able to teach you sustainable farming methods practiced by small acreage, organic farmers. Also, we bring the farm/garden experience to the community- working with schools, individuals, businesses, churches, and other non-profits. For example, we donate materials to a school garden, work with teachers to help develop curriculum, harvest the veggies with students, share the food with community members, and, finally, teach the community members how to grow/prepare their own food.”

Food|Waves funds its operation in part by selling produce from their farm. They raise lettuce, all kinds of  greens, summer/winter squash, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, celery/celeriac, carrots, beets, peas, onions, corn, and strawberries, along with asparagus, basil, sage, parsley, dill and thyme on 2 acres of land. Fruit trees planted in 2011 will soon add apples, pears, persimmon and plums to the crops. Like other non-profits, Food|Waves also relies on funding, personal and corporate along with grants like the Cliff Bar grant that is supporting the training of two interns in 2012.

You can learn more about Food|Waves by visiting their website, picking up a bag of their mixed greens at New Seasons or for the more personal touch talking to Matt, Nathan or other Food|Wavers at Friday at our Kenton Market or at PSU Market on Saturdays.

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“Americans derive almost all of their calories from just 12 crops. Yet, botanists estimate that 10,000 edible plants exist. At Mudjoy Farm, our mission is to showcase some of these novel and rare crops, while at the same time offering the traditional varieties that we all know and love. As a small family farm, we aim to provide healthy and nutritious food that is grown with care in a sustainable manner.”

-From the Mission Statement of Mudjoy Farms

Increasingly, farming is not a game for the young. We get fooled a little at our Markets, in part because all our growers look so radiantly young or because sometimes it’s younger family members or hired help working the stalls, and thankfully, because Portland’s food lovers help make farming a viable career for younger farmers, ranchers, and growers. But the graying of farmers is a major concern. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, laid out the problem succinctly when he told NPR, “The average age of the farmer in America today is 57 today. We had a 30 percent increase in the number of farmers over the age of 75 and a 20 percent decrease in the number of farmers under the age of 25.”

Growing Up

Hooping it up

Harry Short is part of the next generation of farmers. Along with his partner Jim, they work Mudjoy Farms, located 5 miles out of Pinot lovin’ Dayton, Oregon, in a community called Unionvale. Located on the valley floor, Harry and Jim have 25 acres of loamy acres they are reclaiming from blackberry brambles on the way to restoring it to a working farm.

Along with youth, new farmers bring imaginative ideas and passion to farming. Harry, by his own admission, is attracted to novelty, explaining how he picks seeds to grow, he says, “It may start in a number of places: a description in a book, a seed catalog, a magazine article, a menu or a visit to someone’s farm.  Varieties of everyday vegetables that have a different color or shape or a new use intrigue me.  For example, this season we will be growing a parsley that is grown for its root and not just its leaves and an eggplant that is grown for its edible leaves and not its fruit.” Adding, “The process of growing out new varieties or new food plants is an adventure, both out in the field and in the kitchen.  But I also believe that we should be eating a more diverse diet for our health.  Each plant has its own mix of nutrients, and it seems to me that a more diverse diet insures that we receive all the nutrients (known and yet to be discovered) we need.”

Zola, Guard Dog at Mudjoy

Zola the Farm Dog looking intently off camera at what may or may not be a treat. Probably a treat.

Not to say that edible eggplant leaves are a bad business model, but Harry who spent his youth in his grandma’s garden growing food for the table, will have plenty of familiar veg to choose from as well, acknowledging, “people might try a new food item now and then, but they always go for their carrots and salad mix.”.

Harry and Mudjoy start this season by bringing their labor and vegetables to Buckman and King, stop by introduce yourself and wish them luck.

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Via Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

Springwater Farm’s Chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans is hosting a Cinco de Mayo Mexican Feast this Thursday, May 3rd.  Details below

The dinner promises to be a sumptuous gustatory voyage of the intriguing flavors of Mexico. Delight in a myriad of courses highlighting the fantastic, complex flavors of Oaxacan, Coastal, and Mayan cuisine. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Sik l’Pak Salsa, Salsa Verde, & Chipotle Salsa with Fresh Tortilla Chips
Queso Fundito with Ancho Relish, Wild Mushrooms, or Tamworth Pork Chorizo
Escabeche & Fresh Tortillas
Spring Chinook Salmon Wrapped in Banana Leaves with Roasted Poblano Chile Rajas & Crema
Ensalada de Toronja – Gathered Greens with Avocado, Grapefruit, Chile d’Arbol, & Chive Flowers
Tamworth Pork Loin stuffed with Tequila-Soused Prunes, Wood-Fire Roasted & Served with Mole Coloradito
Morel Mushrooms Tamales with Pasilla Chile Sauce, Morels in Crema & Black Truffle
Pear Tres Leches Trifle
with Vanilla-Poached Pears & Cajeta Caramel

Everything is hand-made by Chef Kathryn & her kitchen team. The menu is based on seasonal items that are raised on Springwater Farm, wild-harvested by Roger Konka or sourced from Portland Farmers Market vendors. Specialty pantry items (like masa, banana leaves, & dairy) are from small local businesses and producers. Kathryn and her team compost all of their kitchen scraps back to Springwater Farm.

Where:  Tastebud Restaurant,
When:  Doors open at 6:30, dinner is served at 7:00.
Cost:  $50 per person.
Reservations:  Email Kathryn at wildeats@msn.com or call 503.734.4329

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Remember this?

by Deborah Pleva

Under the picturesque canopy of budding trees in the South Park Blocks, the Saturday PSU Market will open this Saturday, March 17, at 8:30 a.m. with its ritual bell ringing and run until 2:00 p.m. Shoppers will find locally-grown and locally-produced food and farm products from more than 100 farmers, food producers and artisans. That number will grow to 160 vendors as the season progresses and the abundant bounty of local produce ripens.

For the small, dedicated staff at Portland Farmers Market, opening day of the Saturday PSU Market feels like a family reunion, neighborhood potluck and spring festival rolled into one. It brings together familiar faces, delicious food and the spirit of community. Plus, the day carries the promise of sunnier days and the long-awaited tastes of spring produce.

And this?

What’s fresh this spring? Peak-of-season produce like radishes, carrots, scallions, kale and lettuces still wearing traces of the fertile soil of the Willamette Valley. Portland Farmers Market food producers, food artisans and prepared food vendors will also tempt shoppers with delicious baked goods, meats, cheeses, seafood and other specialty foods.

This season, four newcomers join the family of vendors at the Saturday PSU location. Pono Farm & Fine Meats from Bend, OR, will offer pastured, hormone-and-antibiotic-free Wagyu and Red Angus beef, as well as Berkshire and Red Wattle heritage pork and an inviting array of handmade fresh and smoked sausages.  Temptress Truffles will sell wild, locally-harvested forest edibles from mushrooms to huckleberries to truffles, as well as handcrafted truffle butters, salts and oils. Greenwillow  Grains will bring freshly-milled organic grains, beans and edible seeds, all grown in the Willamette Valley. Champoeg Farm will join the market lineup around the holidays with pasture-raised turkeys.

Portland Farmers Market introduces eight new farmers and welcomes back more than 100 returning farmers to its seven market locations this season.  Through the years, the market has sustained the region’s food and farming community by helping to launch more than 40 small businesses and providing a lively and profitable sales outlet for small family farms, many of which count on farm-direct sales as their main source of income.

Grab your shopping bags and baskets and meet us at the market!

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Jim Dixon is the owner of Real Good Food and it’s no lie, his foods are real good.  PFM is a fan of good food in all of its glorious forms. At the heart of our mission is to support our region’s  farmers and food producers and one way we help do this is to provide our shoppers with what we call a Full Market Basket experience.  This means that shoppers can find high quality, authentically sourced ingredients and prepared foods that enhance and complement all of the farm-fresh produce and proteins filling your basket.

Jim collects killer food and oil  from all over and sells them at our Market once a month. This weekend he will be bringing Extra Virgin Olive Oil* from California & Italy, Hand-harvested sea salt from Portugal, Organic farro from Washington, Organic heirloom variety brown rice from California, Hand-harvested oregano from the Italian island of Pantelleria, Hand-harvested fennel pollen from Tuscany, Crystal hot sauce from New Orleans (Mardi Gras is coming up, don’t embarrass your gumbo with tabasco).

Last time I saw Jim he was telling me about a recent trip to Italy to meet up with his food suppliers. He was kind enough to share a few pictures from his trip. And then even threw in a few recipes for kicks. Visit Jim’s blog to learn more about the food and where it comes from or  stop by and say hi to Jim at the Market this Saturday between 10-2 .

Words and Pictures by Jim Dixon

*Extra Virgin

Tom Mueller’s excellent new book Extra Virginitycovers a lot of what’s right and wrong about the world of olive oil. Anyone who likes to eat should read it.

Lax Labor Laws

I’ve been telling the same story to my customers for nearly a decade. Most of what’s labeled “extra virgin olive oil” really isn’t. True extra virgin olive oil costs more because it requires a lot of care to produce. Extra virgin olive oil is an agricultural product, and the people who grow the olives and press them into oil suffer the same market vagaries as farmers who grow vegetables.

Albert Katz, one of my suppliers in California, lost a third of his crop a few years ago when freezing weather hit just before harvest. This season the cold came in the spring, damaging the buds that grow into olives, and his crop is less than a fifth of normal. Katz oils will be short supply this year.

Lack of regulation and dishonest producers do as much damage as bad weather. Factory farms and industrial processing means cheap oil, and lax law allows the label “extra virgin” to go on olive oil that’s been deodorized, refined, or cut with cheaper seed oils. A bottle of fake “extra virgin” olive oil can sell for much less than it costs to produce the same amount of real extra virgin.

Pure Stuff


Shredded Brussels sprouts, leeks, and bacon
Dice a couple of slices worth of bacon into roughly 1/8 inch bits; cook over medium heat with a splash of olive oil until just starting to get brown. Add a leek that you’ve cleaned, split lengthwise, and cut into quarter inch slices. Cook the leek with the bacon for another few minutes.

Add about a pound of shredded sprouts. To shred: trim the ends if they look worn out, split top to bottom, lay flat side down and slice thinly. Cook the sprouts, leek, and bacon for another 5 minutes, taste for salt (the bacon adds some), and eat.

Roasted Winter Squash with Balsamico
Laura and Deeana served us this in Modena. The simple squash highlights the balsamico, and the vinegar transforms the humble vegetable. Use one of the larger, pumpkin-like winter squash; they’re a bit dryer than butternut, delicata, or acorn.

Cut the squash into slices about one inch thick; leave the peel attached. Arrange on a sheet pan that’s been drizzled with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of flor de sal, and roast at 350F for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.
Let each diner dribble a few drops of balsamic on their plate. Gently daub each bite of squash in the vinegar and eat. Or if you’re feeling flush, drizzle each slice with balsamic before serving.

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by Jaret Foster, Senior Market Manager, Portland Farmers Market

Moving into the third week of our Winter Market I have been watching the weather closely. The early part of this week brought snows to my northeast Portland yard and the following days rains nearly drowned my little garden. By Wednesday morning I was beginning to hear from vendors about their needing to potentially cancel with us for the weekend; some due to snows and power outages in and around Hood River and still others with historically high waters down the Valley.

Thursday I received a text from John at Gathering Together Farm that included a photo of the high water around their packing shed and a skeptical note on whether or not they will be able to get from the shed to the road (don’t worry–John assured me today that he’ll be there!) Tammi Packer also called to say that not only was their market truck buried under four feet of snow but their bakery had been without power for two days. Other vendors called to ask if the market was even going to be open (it is). Tomorrow’s weather looks like rain; this is the PNW in January!

PFM does have guidelines in place for weather related Market cancellations and will certainly close if it appears that vendors or shoppers would be endangered by our remaining open. This would be predicated as far in advance as possible by a “Severe Weather Warning” from the National Weather Service (NOAA). Dangerous high winds, ice, measurable snows, or extreme temperatures are all taken seriously. In my time with PFM we have only canceled a handful of market days. Once for snow and twice for extreme weather in June and July. In June of 2009 a tornado touched down in the Valley and brought insane winds and lightening to our Thursday evening markets. We closed those with white knuckles and gritted teeth.

Vendors are always encouraged to be safe if travel to market seems at all hazardous. Thankfully, so far this season we have only had rain to contend with in Portland. Unfortunately for our rural neighbors the precipitation has had adverse affects on their lands and businesses. The following photos and links are illustrative of this and can better describe the perils of farming in the PNW than I ever could.

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the lengths that our farmers go to in order to bring such beautiful food to the market each week.  Weather and pests routinely threaten their land and therefore their livelihood.  The circumstances of this week only make their hard work, sacrifices and tenacity that much more apparent.  Thank you, farmers, for braving the elements in the name of good food and sympathies to those with flooding or snow damage, including GTF & Packer Orchards who both provided photos for this piece.

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PFM’s Winter Market will be open this weekend and those to follow; rain or shine!

Thank you to Camille Storch, Sara Lopath and Harry Lehman for the photos of Gathering Together Farm and to Tammi Packer for sharing her photos of Packer Orchards.

For additional photos of GTF under water, click here.

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Bees enduring their bumpy ride to the farm

By Vicki Hertel, Sun Gold Farm

Don’t worry, this is a good thing.   The invasion actually consists of eight hives of our neighbor’s honey bees which he loans us every season to help pollinate the squash and cucumbers.  They are usually very tame and do a great job in our fields.    When we start to see the huge squash blossoms appear on the zucchini, we know it is time to give neighbor Gene a call.

In the cool of the evening he will ready the hives for their short trip down the county road from his farm to our farm.  He stacks and straps the hives onto a pallet and we receive the call that they are ready to travel.  Early the next morning, just after daybreak, Charlie takes the loader tractor over to pick up the bees.

The weather must be cool so that the bees stay in the hive for the trip.  He goes up to them slowly and gently lifts the pallet and heads down the too-bumpy road.  A few of the bees will come out of their hive and lose their way, but most of them arrive at their new home on our farm ready to go to work.

Honey bees do most of their work within 100 yards of the hive, so Charlie places them in a central area in the field for the season.  It takes a few days for the bees to get their bearings in the new surroundings, but they are anxious to get pollinating!

For too many years we have all taken honey bees too much for granted.   I can remember the swarms of “wild” honey bees that came through the farm several times each summer.  We would hear the sound of a far away roar which quickly became almost deafening.  We knew to hit the ground face down and lay still until the sound ceased.

Such occurences became fewer and fewer because of a condition which has since been called  “colony collapse disorder.”  No one can tell you with any certainty why our honey bees are disappearing in such huge numbers.  Our neighbor, who is an accomplished beekeeper, loses up to 30% of his hives each season.  Some say it is a disease, others believe bees are being killed by insecticides,  and some folks claim too many micro waves and cell towers are disturbing the the bees homing instincts.

Whatever the cause, it is very serious.  Studies are now being conducted nationwide to solve the mystery, and their success cannot come too soon.  We rely on bees for pollination of most every fruit and vegetable that we eat.  Without them making thousands of trips from hive to blossom each day,  farm production will drop drastically.  Cross your fingers that scientists find the answer to the disappearing bee problem soon, and the next time you dip into your honey jar, be thankful for the little creatures who flew so many miles to make it for you.

Sun Gold Farm is owned and operated by fifth-generation farmers Vicki and Charlie Hertel, along with their son Chris. The Hertel family currently farms 120 acres in the fertile Tualatin Valley, near Forest Grove.  You can find them selling their pesticide-free fruits, vegetables and plant starts at our PSU, King and Shemanski Park Markets and can also sign up for their CSA Harvest Box which includes optional honey and greenhouse shares.

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