June 12, 2010

Organic Farm Tour

Last Sunday we had a delightful tour of three organic farms sponsored by People's CoopAlberta Grocery Coop, and Food Front in Portland.  There were about 100 of us on this little field trip, pun intended.  I try to stop in at People's most trips to Portland.   I have been to the Alberta Coop, but not Food Front.  I'll have to visit now that I know they are there, I think they have two stores. 

I love shopping and being a member of the Coop.  I know I am getting the best organic whole food as local as possible.  Being a member I feel like I am contributing to a good thing.  The produce section in People's is beautiful even in the winter.  There are many whole ingredients I used to prepare our meals that are either very hard to get in our little community or are more expensive here.  For example, I can get all the loose teas and herbs I need in bulk so I can buy a little or a lot.  Vanilla beans are usually below $2 a piece.  To buy them here, they are packaged in little glass tubes and become $6 a piece, even at the best whole foods store in town. 

They have me pretty spoiled too.  I went to one of those big box stores with my friend.  I won't even go in their produce cooler, it's all mass manufactured, tasteless, chemical ridden food like substance.   Anyway, I noticed a big bag of organic raw almonds.  We use lots of raw almonds.  I thought to myself, yes, they are a bit cheaper than I pay, but even if they are grown organically and perhaps even in a sustainable farm, I don't think the almonds on the bottom of the bag or even half way down are going to be as fresh as they should be once we get to them.  Nope, I like shopping the bulk food way.  Less packaging, I can buy in any amount I need or my wallet allows, and I know what I am getting.

This is a annual trip for members to give us more of a connection with where our food comes from and who the people are that grow it for us.  Even though it was a rainy spring Sunday, it was a great trip and quite educational.  There were three different farms on our journey, the first was more like a research facility and farm run by a retired college professor, the second a cider house and vineyard, and the third a 100 acre organic vegetable farm.  It was like a very very large garden.  It was great to get to meet the people who grow our food and get a sense of what they are about too.

Our first stop was to Sunbow Farm in Corvalis, OR, an organic farm since 1972.  We learned about composting and care of the soil to sustain future crops and protect the earth.  Harry MacCormack is the co-founder of Oregon Tilth.  Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit research and education membership organization dedicated to biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture.  He was happy to tell us of his research with composte, composte tea, and farming while taking care of the soil to keep it resilient.  He is a character, a retired professor and writer, and he's got quite a history.   He's a poet too.  He started the farmer's market at People's and has had a hand in helping others get started.   This farm very much reminded me of The Farm, in Summertown, TN, that I had the opportunity to visit in April.

We had a great vegan lunch prepared by Abbys Table at Wandering Aengus in Salem, OR.  There was a very tasty raw "tuna" salad - a salad of sprouted seeds and nuts with flavors of the sea, lentil salad with parsley and mint.  I am going to try to recreate this salad very soon.  There was a build your own sandwich buffet of great salads, marinated tempeh, roasted tofu, whole grain breads and much more.  It was nice to be with 100 people who didn't mind that lunch was vegan.  I didn't get a picture of lunch, which is surprising, I think I was probably to busy eating anxious to wander around the orchards and vineyards.  There was also some wine and cider tasting.  You have to ask someone else how that was, I don't drink so I didn't partake.   I did however, listen to the trials and tribulations of growing enough good apples to brew the cider.  This was a very pleasant and relaxing stop on our journey.

Wandering Aengus

Our last farm of the day was Mustard Seed Farms in St. Paul, OR.  This looked like a huge garden in my mind.  This farmer produces greens and veggies to coops, wholesalers, and the local community.  He has a different kind of community garden.  Instead of dividing up into plots, he invites the community to come help on the farm for a number of hours each week to contribute to the garden for their seasonal vegetables . 

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