Got tilth?

When we moved to Portland from San Francisco in December 2004, among our top priorities was to get connected to a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, as we had been previously. You know, internet, CSA, utility, phone hookups, in that order? What better way to help feel grounded in a strange place than to meet a farmer and eat local, literally joining our metabolism to the soil, air and water all around us? Since we don’t drive, and it was winter, our search quickly led to our only real choice: the 47th Avenue Farm. A good deal of the food was grown within Portland city limits, they operated year-round, and the pickup was a pleasant fifteen minute ride away.

My first pickup was a shock. Coming from our California CSA, which was world-class in its own way, I was not prepared for the sweetness and depth of flavor of vegetables that had grown so deliberately in the dark, cold, wet Portland winter:
csa haul

Since then, riding out to the farm every Tuesday evening with friends and family to pick up our week’s food has become one of few rituals I allow myself to enjoy. There are eggs, cheese, honey, and occasional surprises. The pickup is busy with children, dogs, chickens, and our neighbors, some of whom we have introduced to the farm, and others whom we have met there not knowing we were both farm supporters. Apart from feeding us, the farmer family also does fine stonework, and built us a wall so far exceeding our expectations and the value of the money we paid that, well, you get the idea. It’s a connection we cherish.

So we were really upset to learn that farmer Laura’s lease on the land right outside Portland was not going to be continued. The land holder, the City of Lake Oswego, has other plans for Luscher Farm, perhaps the closest-in significant tract of cropland in production in the whole Portland area. The plans involve turning it into a lawn with a parking lot (a sports field for local youth) and a dog run. After all, the soccer moms and dog-walker lobbies are important constituencies in suburban Lake Oswego, more so than a farmer from the big city (yes, this is as weird as it sounds).

I wonder how many years or decades before the turf once again grows food (if ever it can be reclaimed from the parking lot petrochemical and lawn maintenance runoff) because the cost of fossil fuel and pressure on arable land from biofuel crops together make local food production more important than exercise spectator space for motorist families, and dogs can run in their own neighborhoods without being run over or cursed for fertilizing gardens? Meanwhile, the search is on:
new farm wanted

5 thoughts on “Got tilth?”

  • Todd

    Correction: plans aren’t to grow a lawn for the sports field. They are to remove the topsoil, fill with asphalt and sand, and put down plastic turf. Really.

  • Cara Lin Bridgman
    Cara Lin Bridgman September 22, 2006 at 2:15 am

    You’d think we’d learn something from history. How many civilizations have fallen because they covered their best farmland with houses?

  • Mauricio Babilonia

    Haven’t you people heard? Food doesn’t come from dirt, it comes from grocery stores!

  • Ian Hopper

    Dear sweet cheese & rice… I’ve been reading Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” and this bass-ackwards move by Lake Oswego is exactly the kind of short sighted thinking he states has caused the collapse of so many other societies. Someone ought to put “Collapse” in the hands of the city planners that are greenlighting this MORONIC MOVE! GRRRRR!!!!!!!!… blood boiling… must stop… the… madness… from… consuming me….

  • Another Ian

    That is sad news. Laura is wonderful, and so is the community she has fostered. We belonged to her CSA when we lived in SE (two houses down 47th, in fact). Do they still have their other plots of land? Their small plot on Johnson Creek was also very fertile.

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