December  13th: FoFF Celebration and Silent Auction Fundraiser-music, friends and tons of Fun!

November 8th:  Farm to School, Growing Awareness

Not only do Farm to School and school garden programs give children a sense of where their food comes from, but these programs also help to stabilize Oregon’s agricultural community of farmers, food processors, manufacturers and distributors. By increasing the variety and availability of healthy regionally-sourced foods served at school, children are eating more nutritious meals and are growing an awareness around food, nutrition, agriculture and the environment.

October 11th:  Heritage Breeds

“As cultures are homogenized and historic agricultural traditions abandoned, the flavors and food traditions that revolved around specific breeds are threatened as well.”

-American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

It is our pleasure to have Kirk of Cascade Meadows Farm and Wendy Parker from Heritage Farms Northwest share their insights and expertise on this subject.  Kirk’s niche is breeding stock.  He raises exceptional animals that are genetically fined tuned to the Northwest to sell to folks interesed in producing their own food. Every animal on his farm is named, well-loved and carefully observed.  Wendy, along with her husband and son, operates a farm dedicated to raising rare breeds, completely on pasture in a loving and humane way.  Their specialty- “fabulous tasty pigs.”“As cultures are homogenized and historic agricultural traditions abandoned, the flavors and food traditions that revolved around specific breeds are threatened as well.”  American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

It is our pleasure to have Kirk of Cascade Meadows Farm and Wendy Parker from Heritage Farms Northwestshare their insights and expertise on this subject.  Kirk’s niche is breeding seed stock.  He raises exceptional animals that are genetically fined tuned to the Northwest to sell to folks interested in producing their own food. Wendy, along with her husband and son, operates a farm dedicated to raising heritage breeds, completely on pasture in a loving and humane way.  Their specialty- “fabulous tasty pigs.”

September 13: Marketing Labels on Eggs and Meat

Food labels should help consumers make better choices about the products they purchase.  But what happens when they are confusing, or misleading?  Rampant greenwashing marketing strategies strive to influence consumer choices with buzz words.  Do you know the difference between “Free Range” and “Cage Free”?  What does “Natural” mean?  What labels are regulated and enforced, and by whom?  You may be surprised to learn that there are few regulations governing the meanings of many of these labels, and that in many cases, no official standards are required.  Kathy Hessler, Director of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis and Clark College, will enlighten us at InFARMation next Tuesday about the labeling on meat and eggs, and clue us in to some of the places that greenwashing is out of control

August 9th:    Congressman Earl Blumenauer to discuss the next Food and Farm Bill

Join Friends of Family Farmers and Representative Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday, August 9th as we start the discussion about the next Farm Bill. This ia a giant, comprehensive bill that affects our families, our farmers and ranchers, our children, our food, and our communities.  It includes organics, commodity programs, conservation issues, trade, farmers markets, nutrition programs, farm credit, rural development, agricultural research, forestry, energy, animal health and welfare issues, and everything from crop insurance to civil rights.

If you’d like to do some homework beforehand, there is a great primer to the Farm Bill in the form of a book by author Daniel Imhoff, Food Fight, written in 2007 for the last time this came up and still appropriate for starting to wrap your brain around how this works.

Politicians, farmers and ranchers, and advocacy groups don’t all agree on what should change and/or what should be funded, so discussion of the Farm Bill is always an interesting conversation.  Congressman Blumenauer believes we must reform farm and agriculture policy to better benefit Oregon farmers and ranchers. He is critical of the current Farm support structure for not successfully serving the vibrancy of both our rural and urban areas. Oregon produces more food and specialty crops than any other state in the union, yet it only receives about .003% of total federal payments under the Farm Bill, on average, per year.

July 12th: Granges!

Thanks to several grange members/masters including Randi Embree of McLealy Grange near Salem, Virginia Bruce of Leedy Grange near Portland, and Susan Peter of Kinton Grange near Portland, for explaining the history of the Grange for agricultural communities, the current situation, and the potential that the future holds.  For more information, visit the Oregon State Grange site to find a Grange near you!

June 14th: 21st Century Householding

Preserving, planting, planning, partnering with farmers, buying in bulk, buying locally, gardening, budgets, cooking from scratch – these are all aspects of incorporating “sustainable” values into running a household, but they all take skills, time, effort, and knowledge.  Join the discussion about “householding” and how that fits into the large picture of supporting family farmers and ranchers, but also supporting the bigger sustainable food system and balancing a sustainable life for ourselves and our families.  How does anyone do it all with just 24 hours/day and 7 days/week?  We’ve got some great folks on tap to lead this inter-generational discussion and lend their experience, tips and advice:

Join us for the great conversation and some additional resources like planning guides, info on buying clubs and classes, seasonality charts, connections with farmers who are interested in selling in bulk, and more…

May 10th: CSAs – Veggie CSAs, Meat CSAs, Plant CSAs & how the CSA has evolved in the Portland Area

Community Supported Agriculture is a model where the consumer partners with the farmer at the beginning of the season, sharing some of the risks of a bad season but hopefully reaping the rewards of the partnership with extra savings and benefits over the season.  By paying a set fee, either at the start of the season or spread out over several payments, the customer provides the farmer with much needed capitol earlier in the process of planting and growing, and receives product, often on a weekly basis.  Shari Sirkin of Dancing Roots Farm has been utilizing this model for several years now for the produce that she and her husband Brian grow on their Troutdale farm.  CSA farm models also work with other kinds of product – for example, Michael Guebert and his family in Corbett use a CSA model for their family farm Terra Farma, providing egg and meat shares, and raw goats’ milk off the farm. And farmers Brandon Mazur and Stephanie Moore of Good Natured Gardens model their “transplant delivery system”, aka their herb and vegetable plant start CSA, after this system.  Michael Menzies of Braeside Farm CSA will also join us to talk about his CSA model – meat, honey, herbs, and vegetables home delivered.

April 12th: From Conventional Grass Seed to Organic Beans & Grains: The Willamette Valley Bean & Grain Project

Increasing diversity, increasing the amount of food grown in the Willamette Valley, and rebuilding the agricultural infrastructure needed to support increased food production – sounds like a great mission, don’t you think?  As the bottom dropped out of the grass seed market in the last 5 years, some conventional grass seed growers in the Valley have started participating in a project designed to explore how beans and grains can grow locally & organically on this incredibly fertile farmland.  Alongside several farmer mentors who have been growing organically and biodynamically for years, a community that appreciates local food and the local economic ramifications of paying a little more for this kind of product, local activist, media and non-profit’ support, and some new & beginning farmers coming to the land with these values, a number of Willamette Valley conventional farmers are making the switch.

Clinton Lindsey, a second generation farmer of A2R Farms in Corvallis, is keeping a blog to “share our experiences as our family works to transition our 800 acre farm from a conventional chemical-using farm to a sustainable organic farm.”  He spoke at April’s InFARMation to discuss this experience, both from the perspective of the transition, but also why the Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project is so important for Oregon.  Charlene Murdock of Nana Cardoon Farm in Forest Grove has been a supporter of this project from the beginning, growing some test wheat and beans in Forest Grove last year. Here is a great video about the project on YouTube, and here is lot of more detailed info documenting the process from the beginning byMud City Press.

March 8th: Co-ops, Rally in Salem, & How Consumers Can Take Charge of their Food System!

Thanks to the Alberta Co-op for co-presenting this month!  We talked about the Family Farmer and Rancher Day in Salem on March 15th, and how consumers could plug in both to show their support of Oregon’s family farmers and ranchers, but also to own their own voice with our state representatives.  Folks are starting to figure out that our food and our farms and ranchers are all connected, and policies and legislation to support one ties into the other.

Beyond the legislative session, we have opportunities every day to influence the food system through what we buy and how we buy it.  Cooperatives represent a model where people and groups come together to meet their own needs by pooling collective resources, including political and economic influence.  Farmer Jon Bansen ofOrganic Valley Cooperative Dairy (farmer owned), Jim Feldmann of Equal Exchange (worker owned), and Todd Wallace of CDS Consulting Co-op & local consumer owned groceries spoke about how their respective cooperatives and how consumers can plug in.

February 8th: Oregon Legislation 2011 There are a number of bills in front of legislators this session that affect socially responsible farmers and ranchers, and therefore affect all of us who care about the food system.  But politics and legislation can be a foreign language to those of us who don’t work in the field, so we’ve asked some folks to come break down some of the primary bills to watch, and to explain what the bill is about, why it affects us, and how anyone can get involved with showing support and engaging our Senators and House Representatives.  The Farm to School Bill/School Gardens Bill was explained by Suzanne Briggs, theFarm Direct Bill was explained by farmer Anthony Boutard, the Family Farmer Act was explained by Rep Buckley’s office and FoFF, and the WIC/Senior Farm Direct Nutrition Program was explained by Robyn Johnson of Oregon Hunger Task Force.

January 11th: The Agricultural Reclamation Act, and what it means for YOU! FoFF’s Megan Fehrman and Leah Rogers, one of our farmer/rancher delegates, led a discussion about the creation of the ARA, how it is being used as a template to shape policy and legislation, and what that means for Eaters.  The Oregon State House of Representatives already has House Bill 2222 in front of them, with issues pulled directly from the ARA.