These Women Farmers See Their Fields as an Organic Classroom, Part 1

| 9/3/2015 11:00:00 AM


Elaine Walker and Kara Gilbert met as freshmen at the University of Oregon. Both city kids – Elaine from San Francisco and Kara from Portland – they hit it off immediately and began a friendship that would enable them, years later, to reunite and begin building a new type of farm in rural Yamhill County, Oregon. The foundation for this new adventure was built through shared interests and experiences which began during those early days in Eugene.

During college, in addition to their urban roots, both young women shared a passion for helping people in need. They pursued interests in social justice, in creating opportunities within underserved communities, and in educating disadvantaged urban youth. They also both happened to enroll in a university course called Urban Farm, which taught them how to grow vegetables, exposed them to our country’s ever worsening food justice issues, and allowed them to discover just how much they enjoyed working outdoors.

The Urban Farm instructors encouraged all their students to participate in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program, in which people exchange labor for room and board on organic farms around the world, because doing so enables students to learn how organic farms in differing cultures and environments approach sustainable agriculture. Though not together, both Elaine and Kara stepped on this path.

While still an undergrad, Kara began her studies abroad in Italy, working on three different farms… “My goal was to work with three farm families and have them all be really different,” she explained. “I was able to spend time learning from one couple who had a bit more experience, and then stayed with two younger couples who were just really going for it. Everything about that experience was cool, and after getting my undergrad degree I wanted to continue to travel, so I did the same thing in South America at a permaculture center in northern Patagonia.”

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