A Personal Perspective on Oregon’s Sustainable Farm Movement

Reader Contribution by John Clark Vincent
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The State of Oregon is home for a large and ever-increasing community of farmers and farm supporters who are committed to sustainable farming. It’s no wonder that’s the case when one considers that organizations like Oregon Tilth and Organically Grown Company were getting their start here back in the late 1970s, and have since grown to become major influencers in this now surging movement.

As a Portland-based writer and dedicated organic gardener, I was anxious to find a way to become an active participant in the community of folks who endeavor to grow, distribute, and eat healthy, local food. So when I was co-authoring a book featuring a group of Oregon winemakers, it occurred to me that a collection of more in-depth profiles of Oregon’s sustainable farmers could be an effective way to share their stories and let the world know how sustainable food production has become integral to our culture.

My new book, Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement, is the result of my efforts. And I’m very happy to be able to share these profiles with the readers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Profiling Oregon Local Farms

As a new blogger on this site, I will be posting all 18 of the profiles contained in Planting A Future, as well as sharing other news and developments in sustainable farming from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

Though my book was recently published, I am not new to farming. In fact, I was introduced to small-scale family farming by my parents as soon as I could walk around the barnyard. This photo of my parents shows what family farming in central Kansas looked like around the time I was born, which was 1951. It’s an image that could have been captured today on any number of small organic farms.

Actually, it was about the time I started learning about farming that traditional small-scale farming began its dramatic shift toward the industrial methods being touted by post-war chemical companies and land grant universities. Fortunately, my father was slow to adopt many of the new ideas, so I had the opportunity to experience things like saving seed wheat for next year’s planting and allowing our hogs to freely roam the woods and pastures.

But as farms gradually changed or were purchased by larger industrial concerns, and small towns began to fade away, I, too, began a life apart from the earth, focusing on an urban career and learning to eat food packaged in boxes and plastic bags. All I can say is thank goodness the pioneers of organic agriculture who participated in the back-to-the-land movement had the vision and the will to persevere and carve out a path that led to the multi-billion-dollar organic food industry we have today.

A number of those pioneers can be found in Oregon. People like Jack Gray, Mary Jo Wade, and Wali and Jabrila Via who turned an early homestead near Noti, Ore., into Winter Green Farm, one of our state’s leading biodynamic farms. And Dr. Alan Kapuler, an original co-founder of Seeds of Change, who has dedicated his life to public-domain seed breeding, and continues that work with his family at Peace Seeds near Corvallis, Ore.

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing the profiles of people like these who were featured in Planting A Future. In addition to providing these book excerpts, I’ll be writing about a wide array of new developments in sustainable agriculture coming out of Oregon. I’m looking forward to it.

Order your copy ofPlanting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement.

Photos by Lisa D. Holmes

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