Sol Food Mobile Farm Days 86-87: Oregon

| November 5, 2012

Since our time in Seattle, Washington, the Sol Food bus has been moving quickly down the Northwest Coast. There is just so much to see and so little time. Before leaving the Pacific Northwest area, we had to visit the funky city of Portland – which we were told was like a giant version of Asheville, NC. We were certainly not disappointed by the number of amazing people we worked with and the flourishing farms that permeate throughout the city. The two in particular that we were especially impressed by were Zenger Farm and Tryon Community Life Farm. Both places are within a short drive of downtown and have a vibrant farming oasis within their borders.

Zenger Farm is a unique piece of property due to the fact that it has the largest wetland in city limits.  Sitting just below the large greenhouses and row crops is a four acre bog that is home to nesting birds, salamanders, frogs and other wildlife.  Not only does it create a safe haven for these creatures, but it also brings in a huge amount of biodiversity and pollinators to this amazing space. We spent the day on the farm with a large group of volunteers from across the city. We received a full walking tour of the greenhouses, fields, orchards and permaculture gardens. Their farmhouse could also be a tour just on its own with a large vermacomposting center, solar panels and passive solar design. It was an incredible structure!

We also noticed, much like in Seattle, that the surrounding neighbors of this farm are largely immigrant populations and therefore, the farm can boast of a beautiful diversity of crops and cultures. It has given us an entirely new lens through which to view urban gardens and food production in this area of the country. We also can now properly identify ginger plants, which has been one of many new crops we have learned so far. The farm also hosts an awesome CSA stand with honey from their bees, meat from their flock of turkeys and eggs from their coops. It is a wonderful farm and we wish them all of the best this season!

After visiting Zenger Farm, we spent the next day exploring the other side of the city to the north. Tucked down in a valley right next to a state park is where we found Tryon Community Life Farm. We had been hearing about this farm for the entire week, but we were not prepared for the raw beauty we experienced there. Tryon Farm is both a working permaculture farm and also a hub of community activity. The landscape is dramatic in both is flourishing crops and with the massive moss-covered Redwoods towering overhead. There are a handful of permanent residents who live in the cob dwellings around the property. There are also a huge number of neighbors and citizens of Portland who are involved in this place at every turn. The farm has had to fight against the constant threat of city developers in the area and have come out on top. The farm now shares a border with a state park and has a strong community of loyal followers.

As you walk through the farm, you immediately adopt a peaceful feeling amongst the towering trees and twisting garden paths.  As you walk, you pass huge swails and herb spirals and succulent gardens. Every field or raised bed is integrated into the living environment around it and incorporates areas for visitors to sit and enjoy their surroundings.  There is a large greenhouse at the back of the property, but for the most part, all of their production is done in the surrounding fields. They have an incredible outreach program and school networks where they host class groups, summer camps and workshops throughout the year. Scattered about the farm are beautiful adobe style structures, all powered “off of the grid” by utilizing passive solar design. They have a stage for outdoor events and a cobb sauna and wood-fired hot tub for after a long week of farm work. It is an amazing place, and our heads were buzzing with ideas and inspirations after our farm tour.

We didn’t want to leave the city of Portland when the week was over. We made friends in that city that we will be in touch with for years to come, and the farms in the area gave us so much hope for the future. But like every city, we visit, we never get to stay long. There are gardens to build, farms to visits, and communities to connect with all across the United States before we return to North Carolina in December. It’s amazing to think that we only have 2 months left before that time comes. Some days, it feels as though we have been on the road for years and other days, it feels like it has only been a few weeks. But for now, we are enjoying the time we have been given and are feeling so blessed for all of the support we have had along the way. 

Our next stop will be in Muir Beach, California at a farm called Slide Ranch. Following that, we will be headed towards Sacramento for a weekend-long farm festival called the “Hoes Down” where we will be volunteering for the weekend.  We are really looking forward to the drive down the coast and seeing what northern California is all about. Cheers!

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Category: For Kids, Sol Food Mobile Farm

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  1. Erica says:

    It sounds like a fun trip,Belinda! Thanks for sharing the pictures about!

  2. Daniella says:

    It looks like you had a lot of fun during that trip. The pictures look awesome! Thanks a lot for sharing the experience..

  3. Beth says:

    You are having such a wonderful adventure! (Let me know if you ever come to Toronto.) I’ve heard such good things about Portland, and now I really can’t wait to visit.