Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to the Start: Graphic Art in the Food Revolution

As a landscape architect, I value the usefulness of wordless graphics to convey a message.

The complexities of our modern food systems boggle the mind, and reading story after essay after published journal article sometimes overwhelms and leaves me grasping for straightforward explanations to share with friends and family.

This simple animation reminds us all of the need for reinvention and revolution in the standards of practice for food and farming.


From YouTube: Coldplay's haunting classic 'The Scientist' is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the short film entitled, "Back to the Start." The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.
Thanks to Kate, at Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, for pointing me toward this clip! And a sincere thank you to the farmers, companies, co-ops, and individuals dedicated to returning back to the start.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Local Food Needs YOU: Part Two

As a continuation of the call for public involvement on the issue of Community Food Distribution Points as addressed in The Urban Food Zoning Code Update Project, I've asked for permission to share a recent update issued by the The Montavilla Food Buying Club Steering Committee.

 An example of last season's weekly CSA delivery. 
Our ability to gather at an urban drop point in a residential area 
to pick up farm-fresh produce delivered by our local farmer
is threatened by potential changes to the Portland Zoning Code.

Please consider taking a small chunk of time read through the issues and submit your input through the city's Online Survey (open until August 29th). 

This is an important juncture in the storyline of local food in Portland, and your input may very well shape the future of access to nourishing, responsibly sourced meals in this city.


The City of Portland is in the process of putting in place zoning codes to regulate where market gardens, community gardens, farmers markets, chickens and bees, and "food membership distribution sites" (ie. CSA  and food buying club pick up sites) can be located. 

Their decisions could have a big impact on our food buying club, including prohibiting residential/home pick-up sites for both CSAs and food buying club deliveries.

Right now they are leaning toward allowing CSA and food club deliveries only in COMMERCIAL or LIGHT INDUSTRY zones, but NOT allowing them in RESIDENTIAL and OPEN SPACE areas, except maybe at "small distribution sites with fewer members."

Why are they headed in this direction regarding buying clubs and CSA drop sites? Because of concerns about parking/traffic disrupting residential neighborhoods. 

Have they had any complaints? Yes, but only about one club, which has since moved to a commercial space.

We did our best to point out that it is not appropriate to evaluate a club's ability to have home/residential dropsites based on their membership size.  Rather, they should look at how many people participate in a club's average/largest BUYS, how OFTEN those large buys happen, and how long the pick up WINDOWS typically are--since a club can have 200 members but only 40 are buying and picking up for any one buy and it is usually spread out over a number of hours. So, our type of buys have virtually no effect on neighborhood parking or traffic. 

That said, since zoning is totally complaint driven and apparently no one from any of the food buying clubs had ever showed up at these zoning code meetings before, the city planners are going to need feedback to decide in our favor.

OR print a hardcopy and forward it to:

Julia Gisler
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100
Portland, OR 97201

The online questionnaire closes Monday, August 29th.  Please weigh in!

What we hope you will say in response to the questions on Food Membership Distribution (which is on page 5 of the online questionnaire):
NO, they are not headed in the right direction.

The new zoning codes should allow drops in residential and open space areas for clubs & CSA drops whose LARGEST buys/pickups at any residential site do not exceed 60 buyers and offer at least a 6 hour window for pickup. Any residential buys/pick ups smaller than that should have no restrictions since they will have virtually no impact on parking or traffic.

You may also want to add something personal in the "What type of impacts concern you the most?"  section. 

This is what Amy Bean wrote: 

"I am very concerned about any limitations with both types of distributions. Families NEED easier food access that doesn't involve a supermarket, and allows for purchases from local farmers and in bulk for reasonable prices. Not only does this improve livability, it strengthens neighborhoods and brings neighbors TOGETHER as partners who share common values in the quality of their food and where it comes from - sustainability in other words."

If CSAs and buying clubs are forced to only use dropsites in commercial locations, it will increase the costs for everyone, since item prices will need to go up to cover renting space for deliveries. It will also be a major pain for small/occasional sellers who would not be able to run buys from their homes.

Please take a few moments, go online to and make your voice heard by Monday August 29th.

Thanks so much,
The Montavilla Food Buying Club Steering Committee 

And thank you to Chana Andler of the Montavilla Food Buying Club and Portland Local Food for allowing me to republish her information.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Local Food Needs YOU: Portland's Urban Food Zoning Code Update Concept Report Accepting Comments

 "Community Food Distribution Points"

 The Urban Food Zoning Code Update Project is well underway here in Portland, Oregon.  

When word went out seeking volunteer community members to participate on the Portland/Multnomah County Food Policy Committee's Food Advisory Group, my heart felt the tug, but realistically, I couldn't commit to another endeavor during this season of life.

However, I am happy to follow updates from time to time and participate (and encourage your participation) as life allows.

Until August 15th 29th (that's Monday!), the public (that's you and me!) are invited to comment on the Food Policy Committee's Urban Food Zoning Code Update Concept Report

The report covers the future of Farmers Markets, Community Gardens, Urban Food Production, Community Food Distribution, and Animals & Bees. In general, their work seems to be going in a positive direction: solidifying the ability of Portland to strengthen its local food shed and bolster community food security.

However, if you only spend time educating yourself and commenting about one thing, let it be 4) Food Membership Distribution Sites (page 21 and following). Future policy making impacts Community Supported Agriculture programs (such as our CSA, Gardenripe) and Food Buying Clubs (such as our own previous Azure drops, and the various Food Buying Club drops around Montavilla, East Portland, and the rest of the city).

The report notes examples for Portland to draw from, including the city of Philadelphia's standards:
Home occupation standards could apply to food membership distribution sites. Home occupation language in Philadelphia’s code could serve as guidance for regulating food membership distribution sites. The following rules are of particular applicability: no more than one off-street parking space is permitted for visitors; no separate building entrances may be added for the sole use of the home occupation; home occupations may not produce noise, vibration, glare, odors, parking/loading demands, traffic of other unreasonable effects on neighboring residences, up to three people who are not residents of the principal dwelling be may present at one time in connection with the home occupation; and lastly, truck deliveries of pick-ups of products associated with the home occupation are allowed only between the hours of 8am and 7pm, and delivery and pick-up via semitractor trailer is prohibited.

(Remember that Azure semi truck coming kindly down our Montavilla street to drop off our load of goods?)

Currently, the option is on the table for Portland to restrict drop sites to commercial and light industrial areas (and thereby not in residential or open spaces - including churches located in residential areas).

A quote from Know Thy Food's Facebook page: "this is exactly what happened to us, and why we were forced to move out of my home into our current space. not every club will be able to survive or afford such a move, so proposals to force them into commercial or light-industrial spaces is a proposal to shut them down. let's not let it happen!" 

As the Committee contemplates Portland/Multnomah County's best choices for creating new policy, please let your voice be heard! (Remember, comments due by Monday!)

OR print a hardcopy and forward it to:

Julia Gisler
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100
Portland, OR 97201

Because we ARE the community.

Monday, August 15th Update from Julia Gisler:
Problems with the on-line survey has been resolved and we apologize for the frustration this caused over the weekend.

The good news is that all surveys submitted were received (even if you got an error message) and will be added to the public record. As a result of this mishap we will be extending the deadline for questionnaires/surveys to Monday, August 29th at 5:00 pm.

Please pass this information on to others you think may be interested in commenting on the Concept Report. You can find the questionnaire at
Julia Gisler, City Planner
Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability

Further reading:
Portland Planners Threaten Local Resiliency, Local Food, and Local Economy

Monday, August 8, 2011

Real Food Field Trips: A Beginner’s Guide

Where does Real Food come from? Who is responsible for growing and harvesting, preparing and sharing it? How can you find the answers and educate yourself, your children, and your friends and family?

This week, I'm guest posting at Frugal Granola.

Real Food Field Trips

A Beginner's Guide for Choosing Your Own Food Adventure


(And a big thank-you to my mom, who took me on endless field trips to give me the world!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

PDX Food Swap Summer 2011 Highlights

With summer fruits finally ripe for the plucking and Oregon sunshine stickin' around, PDX Swappers met together for another terrific food swapping evening on Saturday, July 30th at Abby's Table in SE Portland.

Our group hosts several dozen swappers at our seasonal gatherings and over four hundred fans on our PDX Food Swap Facebook page, and we are excited to see the passion for thoughtfully made food and community connections continue to build...


Thanks one and all for another delightful array of home made, hand crafted goodness!

Want to keep up to date on future swaps?
The easiest way is to like the PDX Swappers Facebook page.

Stay tuned for updates on the PDX Swappers Autumn Swap date.

In the meantime, one of our swappers has extended the invitation to join her for a small Food Swap event at her home (she has 15 spaces available, first come, first served):

Backyard Food Swap
An informal gathering and trading of kitchen crafts
Saturday, August 13th, 2011
7:00 PM
5844 SE 21st Avenue
Portland, OR
(Westmoreland Area)

To RSVP and for more information, contact Debbie

{ Interested in Starting Your Own Swap? }

There are so many terrific resources beginning to surface on the internet ~ check out this smattering to get you going with inspiration:

Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking: Food Swaps
Brooklyn Homesteader: Food Swaps Across America
LA Food Swap: Start Your Own
Seattle Swappers: How a Food Swap Works
CHOW: Rules for Effective Swapping

PS: If you have photos or stories from the event, please share. Feel free to post on the Facebook Page, link in the comments below, or send us a note at 

Until we swap again,


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