December 14th: End of the Year Party: FoFF celebrated our program and accomplishments in 2010, with our supporters and other local food and agriculture groups, all of whom are making a difference in our local food system.  There was live music by Nathan and Dean and square dancing thanks to the Greasy Chain String Band, and we held our first annual silent auction!  Thank you to everyone who donated items and thanks to everyone who bid on them!  You can get excited for next year by checking out the list of fantastic auction items from 2010.

November 9th: Factory Farms Author and editor Daniel Imhoff has recently edited a coffee table book and companion reader on CAFOs (not to be confused with Oregon’s confined animal feeding operation permits that many owners of even small numbers of animals has to get), and provided a national bird’s eye view on the subject.  He was joined by Portland’s own Kathy Hessler, Lewis and Clark Law School expert on the legal issues around animal law and Oregon’s CAFO situation, and FoFF’s Kendra Kimbirauskas, a ten-year veteran of community organizing around fighting factory farms.  You can watch the speakers from November’s panel online on Cooking Up a Story‘s website, and see a longer video about it here.  You can also listen to a radio interview Dan Imhoff did the following week on KBOO’s Locus Focus program.

October 12:  My Bank Made Me Quit Farming At issue: getting farmers on the land now so we can continue to have diversity in farming in the future. Teresa Retzlaff and Packy Coleman of 46 North Farm near Astoria joined us to share their story about their struggle to convince a bank that farming was a viable enough occupation that they could afford a business loan or a mortgage.  Artists as well as farmers, they be brought their beautiful slide show that tells their story of farming on the Oregon coast and what barriers they, and many other beginning farmers, hit when trying to purchase land. Also appearing was Severine Von Tscharner Fleming of The Greenhorns.  A multi-media outreach-based New York non-profit, The Greenhorns focus on networking young farmers across the country. Jared Gardner took a few minutes to talk about the movement and legislation for an Oregon State Bank and how that might affect agricultural lending.

Tuesday, September 14th: Organics As part of Organic Week in Oregon, a panel of farmers including Scott Frost of Nature’s Fountain and Linden Burk of HupHo Farm, and the CEO of Organically Grown Company discuss organics, certification, and scale.

August 10th: Eaters’ Bill of Rights

After spending the winter and spring working on the Agricultural Reclamation Act for Oregon family farmers, we thought that we ought to give eaters a taste of this kind of empowerment!  The National Catholic Rural Life’s Conference came up with a great version.  What are your ideas around an Eaters’ Bill of Rights?  What actions do you take to make a difference?  Is it enough?  Whether you have spent lots of time thinking about this previously, or if this is the first time you’ve put your food values into words, this is a conversation that every eater should have.  Thanks to farmer Koorosh Zaerpoor of Kookoolan Farms, teacher Chris Musser of LostArtsKitchen, and food professional Jeanne Quan for sharing their thoughts and getting the conversation started.

Farmer Jon Bansen speaking to crowd at InFARMation (and Beer!)

June 9th: Urban Farming

Every urban farm in this state is as unique and different as the farmer(s) working it, but many of the common barriers they share are similar.  Urban farmers face most of the same issues as rural farmers in Oregon, and they face additionally an entirely different set of problems specific to farming in and among an urban population.

Naomi Montacre, owner and proprietor with her husband Neil of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, is in a good position to know what urban farmers have to face in Portland.  She facilitated a panel of urban farmers at June’s InFARMation (and Beer!) as a way to convey many of the urban farmers’ experiences.  Additional special guests included Katy Kolker from the Multnomah Food Policy Council’s Urban Agriculture Subcommittee and Donna Smith of Your Backyard Farmer.

Farmers on the Urban Farmer Panel included:  Naomi of Naomi’s Organic Farm SupplyDonna Smith – Your Backyard Farmer; Kelly Wood – Amaranth Produce; Jason Karnezis – Red Truck Farm , (partner/wife Amber Baker in audience); Stacey Givens – The Side Yard Farm;  Nolan Calisch & Chris Seigel – Wealth Underground Farm; Dan Bravin – County Crops ; Tim Donovan & James Ragsdale – North Portland Farm / Project Grow; Donna Smith – Your Background Farmer; Aimee Jo – Blooming Earth Farms; and Melanie Plies – Backyard Bounty.

Wednesday, May 12th: Restaurants Sourcing Locally

This was a big month for us because Friends of Family Farmers turned 5 years old, so we celebrated with cupcakes and live music by The Sodbusters!

We had many speakers to cover the many angles of this topic – Deborah Kane demonstrated the online interface recently developed called FoodHub as a way that farmers, ranchers, and producers can connect with food buyers and chefs online, quick and easy.  Leslie Cole, Food Day reporter for the Oregonian, talked about how consumers can navigate restaurant menus and servers to determine if a restaurant is sourcing locally, and the actual limitations of seasonal eating.  And of course we had chefs and farmers – Sarah Curtis-Fowley of Pacific Pie Co and two of her sources, rancher Joe Schueller of Rainshadow El Rancho Bison Ranch and Friday from Sellwood Garden Club Farm, discussed their relationships, and what the barriers, joys, benefits, and struggles are when trying to source as locally and humanely as possible.

April 13th: Meet the Rogue Farm Corps, Farm Internship Model

Stu O’Neil and Melyn Smith came up from Ashland, OR, where they run the non-profit Rogue Farm Corpsfocused on the education and placing of farm interns in the agricultural Little Applegate Valley.  We discussed some of the latest developments about internships in this state fresh as gleaned from a state meeting that day on the subject.  The unique needs of the Portland area were also part of the discussion, and the idea was raised that a chapter of Rogue Farm Corps could be created up in Portland.

March 9th: Farmer Anne Berblinger of Gales Meadow Farm on Plant & Seed Diversity.

Anne presented on how and why a diversity of vegetable varieties developed, choosing varieties for home and small farm use, seed saving – why and how to get started, and the importance of protecting our vegetable heritage.  Anne & Gales Meadow Farm have a history of supporting new and beginning farmers with internships and positions on her farm, and by teaching classes.

Tom Winterrowd of Pitkin-Winterroad Farms was brought onstage by Anne to discuss his research on who owns seed companies – Tom is currently writing an article on this research, so look for it in a future FoFF newsletter!  Additionally, Grow Portland Seed Club had a seed stuffing party during the first hour of InFarmation, before the speakers went on.  Grow Portland purchased organically grown, open pollinated seeds in bulk and distributes them to local gardeners, with a goal of creating a social and community environment for gardeners to meet and share ideas and wisdom.

February 8th: The Policymakers! Representative Brian Clem, Chair of the Oregon House Agriculture Committee, Lynn Youngbar of the Oregon Board of Agriculture, and Steve Cohen, Manager of Food Policy and Planning for the City of Portland all sat on a panel to discuss how food and agriculture policy is made in our state,

and how we can all get involved.  Jackie Hammond-Williams, manager of the Oregon City Farmers Market, moderated the panel.  The biggest takeaway from all the policy makers is that they DO want to hear from Oregonians, and that they need those of us who care about socially responsible farming and food to SHOW UP whenever there is an opportunity to provide feedback.  Because there are full-time staff and lobbyists working to promote the agendas of agribusiness, who appear and speak at every possible opportunity, all policy makers hear from that “side” of agriculture when making decisions and setting policy.  The rest of us need to coordinate, research opportunities, organize talking points, and show up.  Friends of Family Farmers can help with this, so send us email if you’d like to learn more about how YOU can plug in and influence policy!

January 12th: The Future of Farming in the Willamette Valley by Anthony Boutard

Friends of Family Farmers and Slow Food Portland presented the first InFARMation (and Beer!) of 2010 to the largest InFARMation (and Beer!) audience so far. Anthony Boutard from Ayers Creek Organic Farm was the very first InFARMation speaker in 2009, and he returned this year to give us a farmers view of the state policy issues family farmers are facing in Oregon. With the 2011 legislative session less than a year away, farmers and consumers have the opportunity to change and improve the laws affecting how food is regulated in Oregon to better reflect changes in consumer desires and farming.

Anthony discussed the legislative and rule-making processes in Oregon, and the existing state of regulations.  The current statutes were written decades ago, and many family farmers feel that they do not reflect changes in the ways food is now grown and sold in Oregon.  These changes include an increasing number of farms that are selling food directly to the public at Farmers’ Markets and through CSAs, and other direct sales structures that did not exist when the statues and rules were drafted.  The result is a lot of confusion and what some farmers see as unnecessarily restrictive interpretations of the law.

Every person who cares about how food is produced in our state needs to help keep family farming viable for the folks who want to do that work.  This is crucial if we want to continue to buy our food from socially responsible farmers now and in future years.  Family farms and ranches harvest and sell in a different way than larger industrial operations and a one-size-fits-all regulatory approach doesn’t necessarily work.

Anthony brought up Chrissie Zaerpoor of Kookoolan Farms to speak a bit about restrictions and regulations specific to raising meat in Oregon. Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farms gave us an update on Land Use Policy changes associated with the Urban Growth Boundary, a followup from an InFARMation topic several months ago and very timely with Metro and the counties taking public comment right now. Cooking Up a Story has made several videos to highlight this issue that can be seen on their website as Part 1and Part 2.

Thanks to everyone who participated!