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The Choice…

December 22, 2011

Most of the land I visited was similar in characteristic: 1. Located on ag-zoned land, 2. Fallow and flat or only slightly sloped, 3. Had been farmed in the past with food crops, and 4. Located within an hour of urban Portland.  I say “urban” Portland because the Portland Growth Boundary extends farther than what you would now call urban areas. In towns like Sherwood and Damascus, where the growth boundary extends and ends now, there are distinct differences in of the land that borders this boundary.  A visible line cuts through the landscape: one side with small tracts of farmland and rural space and the other lined with suburban, gated neighborhoods and condominiums.  A bitter reminder of my NW Indiana roots, where I watched, in little over two decades, prime farmland  swallowed up by the ever-extending arms of the Chicago suburbs. Yep, it is the stories Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp use in their songs.  One majority vote in the city can change the boundary, extending the arm and swallowing up more land to development. The land owner just adjacent to one of the boundaries in Sherwood showed concern over the future of the land in which he tends.

Downsides to most of the land was a lack of living space for the farmer (at least right away) and all the land I looked at posed the same issue: lack of water. Vegetable farming is not like grain or hay farming. Nor is it like farming livestock.  Although I have not done the math and I am sure the water use would be distributed differently through the seasons, I would compare vegetable farming to dairy-farming in terms of amount of water needed to operate the farm successfully. Of course, dairy farmers need that water for cleaning purposes and vegetable farmers need the water during the dry, summer months of the Pacific Northwest to maintain healthy growing vegetables.  So, undoubtedly and ironically, water is my first challenge in these parts and in my next post, I will discuss ways I will try to overcome this challenge.

So, my choice really came down to one thing: the landowners themselves.  It was based on the connections I made with the landowners.  Part of my philosophy in successful and sustainable farming is cooperation and building trustful relationships with the community.  Starting a business alone, without a successful relationship with the community, won’t work for me.  I want to be involved on more than just a business level.  As much as I want to give back to the land, I want to give back the community as well.  Not just food for them to eat, but also a sense of integrity, empowerment, and security that stems from connecting with and helping each other out.  All the land owners were great, and I have so much gratitude for being in the place where I am right now, but one family stuck out in kindness, vision, and compatibility more than the others.  So, I will be growing vegetables on the outskirts of Oregon City, just a half hour from downtown Portland.  This is a 50-some acre property, with about 20 acres in pasture. The family already hobby farms with livestock and has goats, chickens, cattle and foraging hogs.  There is also a large barn on site, which will be critical in the challenge for obtaining water (more on this in my next post).

So there is much work that needs doing in the next few months to get the farm ready for spring and I will update the blog each critical step/s of the way. Here’s another look at the land with the barn in the background. Stay tuned for my next post (next week!) about rain water harvesting and other ways I’ll be dealing with water.  I have also added some links in the right column and will be updating this often with interesting articles, resources, and other pertinent information so feel free to dig in. I also want to leave you with this You Tube link to John Mellencamp performing “Rain on the Scarecrow” at one of the first Farm Aid concerts in 1985. He was one of my first concerts as a kid…he is still rocking Farm Aid today as well.

HAPPY SOLSTICE EVERYONE!

This only shows the corner (right-bottom) of where I'll be farming, but it shows a great view of the barn and area which will soon become the work zone for the farm.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 10:34 pm

    Congratulations, Carrie!!!!! I know you’ll overcome the water obstacles, and most likely in some ingenious way that restores the community as well….. Happy Solstice!

  2. Mel Wright permalink
    December 23, 2011 2:09 am

    What an adventure. I’m so excited for you. About the water; you get plenty of rain, right? So it’s an issue of storage and intelligent water management, like mulching and stuff. That big roof is a blessing. Are you going to have living quarters on site, or are you going to commute?

    Love your writing.

    Mel..

  3. Natalie P permalink
    December 23, 2011 2:29 am

    So excited that you’ve found a home for Mama Tee’s. She’s be so proud of how you are carrying forward her name!

  4. Madeline Rose permalink
    December 31, 2011 5:07 pm

    What an adventure! Sounds like you’re circling back to your roots and it must be such a great feeling. Look forward to your posts…
    Madeline

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