Thursday, April 12, 2007


I'm just like millions of other folks who have moments of inspiration, have something I think is important enough to tell the world, have the far-fetched notion that people might actually sift through the sea of digital detritus that is largely composed of an infinite number of abandoned or nearly-abandoned blogs to find some meaning or value in this one...but I'm just ignorant enough to go ahead and drop my stone in the soup regardless of the fact that the soup will likely taste no different whatsoever despite my contribution.

Why am I doing this? Isn't working 50 hours/week, finding time to spend with my 7 month old daughter, and just dealing with the day-to-day frustrations of life on earth enough?

I mean, one would suppose I would simply be satisfied with the progress being made towards preserving and supporting local agriculture and artisan food production across the river in Oregon. The citizens of the greater Portland Metroplex are blessed with over a dozen farmers markets. There is a farmers market open every day of the week during the growing season of April-October. The Hillsdale farmers market is even open year round. There are several dozen CSA programs serving the area. The number of restaurants sourcing more and more of their ingredients locally is growing every week. They have an amazing resource in the Ecotrust Food & Farm program. The Portland, OR chapter of the Chefs' Collaborative is one of the most dynamic in the country. Slow Food Portland is one of the largest conviviums in the country and their events are on par with the celebrity lecture series hosted by first class universities. Talented chefs from across the globe are migrating to Portland to take advantage of the bountiful local harvest and the opportunities being offered by an exponentially growing number of creative and wonderful dining establishments. Artisan bakeries, artisan pizza, local charcuterie, several wonderful, thriving cheesemongers, urban farms, edible landscaping companies, dozens of "natural" markets, ...Hell, there's even a couple of wonderfully talented ladies who have started a successful business called Preserve. They offer a series of serious, hands-on classes to folks interested in resuscitating the disappearing art of canning and preserving. I could easily keep going with examples of phenomenal support for local agriculture, artisan food production, and the myriad of ways one can readily appreciate Oregon's field and farm cornucopia.

All of this is just across the river from where I live. And although our neighbors to the south are literally a few miles away, and yet they are a universe apart from Clark County with regards to the general concepts of realizing the importance of and finding value in local agriculture. The latest "land use" policy draft issued by our county commissioners would have us believe that although agriculture as a concept is important there is no future in local agriculture, there is no importance in preserving local agriculture, and that they have no real plan to do anything to preserve or protect our farmland...although they have very detailed plans on how to utilize every square inch of land they can zone for development. I don't get it. It keeps me up at night. It makes me do this. At least I'm not alone. There is a small group of local farmers being rallied by a local CSA farming couple, Jim & Diane Hunter of Hunters Greens CSA. Jim & Diane have some very interesting and thought-provoking ideas about things like land use policies and local agriculture and life in general. I'll be "republishing" their 'Notes From the Margin' newsletters here as often as they send them to me. In fact, my next post will be a reprint of the infamous issue that will be recognized for having started the forthcoming Great Clark County Farm Revolution.

So why should you care? Why do I care?

I guess maybe you shouldn't. Especially if you live in a place like Portland, OR or Berkeley, CA, or Seattle, WA or Vancouver, British Columbia. Places that "get it". Places where the small farmer is a respected and valuable member of the community. Places where local government and the citizens of the community work to not only preserve local agriculture, but actually improve and expand local farming efforts. Places where the land occupied by community gardens can be measured in acres. Places where the number of school gardens is increasing every year.

But maybe you are like so many Americans, like me, who live in areas that were once centers of agricultural production, blessed with the appropriate climate for growing a dizzying diversity of crops and livestock, and possessing an incredibly productive soil structure. Now we watch or ignore as the small farms and fertile but fallow pastures are paved over to make room for whatever things are "more important" than our priceless farmland, the future of our national food security, and the health of our communities and our families...maybe you should care too.

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