Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Party Favor: Crab and Artichoke Dip


I want to slide in a quick suggestion for your next holiday party, whether it's at your place or you need to take a little something to contribute to a gathering. It's a throwback to the days of yore and Madmen-style, cocktail-fueled evenings, where a table might be laden with tiny canapés made with Ritz Crackers, processed cheese and pimento olives.

Cheese balls were in fashion, sitting like an errant meteor on a china plate. My own mother was enamored of them—I think she really loved the nuts studding the exterior— and standbys like clam and onion dips orbiting big bowls heaped with salty potato chips. Chafing dishes, with little tins of Canned Heat burning beneath them, kept all manner of hors d'oeuvres like meatballs piping hot (sometimes erring on the side of molten), with rainbow-colored toothpicks nearby, the better to spear the choicest bits.

The warm crab and artichoke dip below would have fit right in on that table, even more so because it relies on canned food products and the stalwart presence of mayonnaise to bind it all together. You could substitute local Dungeness crab meat, farmers' market artichokes and homemade mayonnaise to make it, too, but I like the simplicity of the original in its all-American salute to convenience paired with deliciousness. And I know my mother would approve.

Hot Artichoke and Crab Dip
Adapted from New Seasons Market

1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts
1/4 c. capers
6 oz. crab meat (fresh is better and cheaper if you buy a whole crab and crack it yourself, but canned works, too)
1 c. parmesan, finely grated
1 c. mayonnaise
6 whole wheat crackers (like Triscuits), optional

Drain and chop artichokes. If using canned crab, drain well. Crush crackers to fine crumbs with a rolling pin.

Combine crab with artichokes, capers, cheese and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with crushed crackers. Put in baking dish and bake for at least 20 minutes at 350°. When slightly browned and bubbly, serve with your favorite crackers, baguette slices or tortilla chips. (Also makes a great stuffing for salmon fillet or chicken breast.)

Squash Chronicles: Spaghetti Squash Cacio e Pepe



It's all squash, all the time here at Good Stuff NW…or so you might surmise from the preponderance of Oscar-worthy starring roles that winter squash has been playing in recent posts. Much of the blame for this cucurbit-heavy obsession can be laid at the feet of the fellow in the video above, the estimable Chef Tim Wastell and his henchperson/enabler Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network.

Tim Wastell showing proper squash butchery technique.

A couple of years ago the pair held a Squash Party for which Tim concocted a mind-blowing squash ice cream that disrupted the comfy little niche I had created in my mind for winter squash. I came home and immediately made a winter squash sorbet and, damn him, it was stunning! It also began my quest for what else this herbaceous vine might be capable of.

Selman and Wastell recently held a Squash Sagra in which Wastell demonstrated squash butchery to a rapt audience. It's also where I learned of a series of videos of Tim making fabulously simple dishes using these much-maligned gourds. Filmed by my friend Jeremy Fenske, they are short and sweet and sure to inspire you. And, I hope, to blow apart that little niche you might have for this amazing food.

Find more squash recipes here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Farm Bulletin: Oregon’s Aci Sivri Cayennes


Nothing at Ayers Creek Farm is unconsidered, from the wetland to the predatory birds to the varieties of pole beans. Neither are things precious—if a crop doesn't produce or too many other farms begin offering a similar product or it's too much trouble, out it goes. And that includes au courant terms like "heirloom" and "artisan" (seriously, don't bring it up), which is addressed in this essay on the cayenne pepper that Anthony and Carol Boutard have been working diligently for years to perfect to their specifications. 

Oregon’s Aci Sivri is a cayenne introduced from Turkey in the 1980s. The Turkish name aci sivri biber simply means a hot long (cayenne-type) pepper, rather than a specific variety. Turkey produces a lot of peppers, cayennes and sweet, about 7% of the world’s production, ranking second to China. Peppers are grown in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea regions of the country. In Turkey, cayennes are used both pickled when green and dried when ripe.

Capsicum calyxes, from left: Oregon’s Aci Sivri, Costeño Rojo, Chiltepec, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Shishito, Italian sweet

It is fashionable to tag the honorific “heirloom” on all manner of crop varieties, and aci sivri hasn’t been spared. As any crop grown for more than 25 years meets the definition regardless of quality, the term is well nigh meaningless. Some up the ante by describing the pepper as a "centuries old Turkish heirloom." Given the generic name and the absence of a geographic link, that embellishment is a stretch. As a result of the Turkish diaspora, people of Turkish descent live in Spain, Italy, Germany, the United States and elsewhere. Just as an Oregonian returned with some seeds of a cayenne that impressed him from his time in Turkey, seeds travel in both directions and it is just as likely that seeds from a fine cayenne, perhaps sent by a Cornell graduate student to her family, found their way from Upstate New York to a Black Sea village in Turkey where it was welcomed. Over the past five centuries, seeds have been an international commodity, passed around by researchers and seed companies, as well as families. The idea of a crop frozen in time like an antique tea cup or souvenir spoon is a fatuous conceit.

The berries of the Nightshade family, the Solanaceae, have marvelous calyxes (above left). The eggplant has a large, tough, often thorny one, the tomatillo’s papery calyx continues to grow after pollination and envelopes the fruit (below right), while the tomato has a wiry, glandular and reflexed version. The calyxes of peppers are akin to hats, varying in size and shape, and are part of the fruit’s genetic fingerprint. The calyx of Oregon’s Aci Sivri forms a distinctive hat that extends beyond and over the fruit, worn jauntily like a French beret. Very different from the long cayennes that sport a tight calyx over the ears like a flapper’s cloche, or others that have merest of beanies. Or the bell pepper with a calyx that is proportionately similar to a yarmulke. And to think, before this digression you all probably never gave a second thought to the Solanaceous calyx and all its forms.

Tomatillos in their husks.

Not all peppers sold as "Aci Sivri" by seed companies or in photos posted as aci sivri biber have the beret-like calyx possessed by Oregon’s version. Many have the flapper's cloche or a beanie instead. This observation confirms our observation that aci sivri biber is not a well-defined variety, but rather a general cayenne type with a lot of diversity. For example, some catalogue entries suggest that the heat of the pepper is variable and can be very hot. Others describe the pepper as exceeding eight inches long, or producing an astounding 50 fruits per plant. Undoubtedly, others have brought to the United States a Turkish pepper called aci sivri. The descriptions and photos suggest they are very different peppers from Oregon’s.

Under its jaunty calyx, Oregon’s Aci Sivri is well-defined in terms of quality. It has a sweet flavor with a rich chocolate-like complexity. The heat is consistently gentle if the interior ribs, the placental tissue, are removed. You can be generous in its use and the whole family can enjoy its flavor. The pepper is a bit more frisky when the ribs are retained. Even then, the heat is civilized; it doesn’t slap you in the face or cause torment in its descent down the gullet. Although the Scoville scale treats the "heat" of peppers as a linear phenomenon, it is not. The heat comes from capsaicin and at least 10 other very similar compounds called capsaicinoids. Variations in the quantities of each of these compounds will alter the intensity and character of the heat. In Oregon’s Aci Sivri, the character of the capsaicinoid blend is amiable.

Joe's Long cayennes in the field at Ayers Creek with their cloche-like calyxes.

Unlike souvenir spoons and antique tea cups whose traits remain static through time, crops evolve and adapt to their new home. Oregon’s Aci Sivri has been here for three decades and is clearly now an American of Turkish descent. (And it is also officially an Oregon heirloom, having met the mere 25-year hurdle for that banal and meaningless honorific.) We have had a hand in shaping the pepper in our own seed production. Of particular importance for us are the plant’s architecture, early ripening and the darkest red fruits. In terms of architecture, we have been selecting for plants that hold their fruits aloft of the ground rather than having the fruits dragging about on the soil. Good posture is critical where the late summer is often wet. It means the fruits remain clean and do not rot at the tip as wet weather approaches in early autumn. Good quality peppers are more important to us than high yield, and those that ripen during the warmer days of September have better flavor. We look for plants that are modest in their productivity. In our experience, the darker fruits have a more complex flavor when dry.

One of the advantages of being a farmer-breeder, we can be fussy and every year select ten or so perfect specimens for seed from a field of over 500 plants. The fruits for seed are the first we harvest. If we were growing the plants for seed only, we could never be as selective. And we wouldn’t be so concerned about plants that have their fruits slouch on the soil, a bit tardy or never get quite as red as the others. We could change the pepper’s name as is our wont, but Aci Sivri has a nice ring to it and we have no better idea, so we are content to add the possessive modifier and leave it at that.

There is a wonderful moment in one of Chekhov’s short stories where an officer greets his lover after a few drinks with his colleagues. She savors the warm bite of the pertsovka—pepper vodka—as he greets her with a kiss. When we first tasted Oregon’s Aci Sivri, the scene came to mind immediately and made sense. In the story, the pepper was amorous not aggressive. Hvorostovsky not Putin. Anthony sat down in Powell’s one day determined to find that short story. He was soon stymied by the sheer volume of Chekhov's short stories, compounded by the multitude of collections and translations; after an hour, he left cross-eyed. Upon reflection, it is better to retain the memory of the gentle bite of a pertsovka-infused kiss without a plot’s unnecessary complications or disappointments.

Read more on the controversy over the heirloom label.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Food Heroes: Matthew Dillon, Seed Guy


It all goes back to growing up on his family's small farm in Nebraska just outside of Omaha. That four-acre farm, which his family called a "hobby farm," was where the Dillon family raised vegetables and kept a few cattle. Young Matthew and his siblings would harvest the vegetables from the fields, then carry them up and down the road that ran in front of their house that cut through the heart of Nebraska's rich agricultural land, selling armloads of the crops to their neighbors.

Matthew was a smart kid, and his boredom with school, which he refers to as "an 1890’s model of education," caused him to get a reputation as a rabble-rouser. "I’d definitely gotten in trouble for vandalism, smoking pot and all those things," he said. "That’s why I was getting in trouble—because I wasn’t challenged. I was totally bored."

Mount Michael Benedictine School.

So his parents plucked him out of public school and sent him to a nearby boarding school called Mount Michael Benedictine School. "It was competitive to get in, you had to start as a freshman, he said. "100 percent of students going off to college, 90 percent on scholarships, highest ACT and SAT scores in the state."

The monks also had a three-acre organic farm.

But compared to the vegetables his family grew, "the carrots and the produce were pretty crappy looking," he remembers thinking. "I guess this is good for the planet, but it doesn’t look very edible."

After graduating from Mount Michael, Dillon went to the University of California, studying the evolution of human consciousness through a special outdoor wilderness program on the impacts of the human psyche on ecosystems.

Then his father got sick. Cancer.

"He'd had an agricultural supply business, everything from veterinary health supplies to pesticides, you name it, the whole kit and caboodle," Dillon said.

Matthew dropped out of school to help his mother take care of his dad and worked to help pay the family's bills.

Platte River Valley in Nebraska.

"My dad was so healthy. Why is he, of all people, getting non-Hodgkins lymphoma?" he asked himself. "I started looking into it, and the Platte River Valley of Nebraska has this insanely high rate of non-Hodgkins lymphoma because of nitrates in the wells [from] pesticide runoff."

Dillon's father died shortly thereafter, and it began to dawn on him that the pesticides his father sold and that all the farmers in the area used might have contributed to not only his dad's disease, but to his own serious illness at the age of 12, eventually diagnosed as an endocrine disruption and after which he never grew again.

He became intrigued with agriculture. He got a job working on urban garden projects in and around Omaha, plus a side business running an electronics smuggling operation in Russia (read more about that here).

Working on the garden projects, "I realized that the only way I was going to be close to my dad again was if I started growing food," Dillon said. "The thing that he loved the most was that hobby farm. He liked that more than the business. He just liked growing food, he liked making food, [and] it became really clear to me that I needed to go and get my hands in the soil."

Touring a field study for the OSA.

An internship at an 18-acre organic farm in California's Anderson Valley introduced Dillon to an integrated approach to agriculture, where everything was different from the practices his family had used in Nebraska. But one thing struck him as odd: the seed on the organic farm came from the same sources as the seed that the conventional growers used back home.

"All of the inputs are different, our approach to caring for the soil is different, but the seed was the same," he said. Other than some heirloom seed from the Abundant Life Seed Foundation and the Seed Savers Exchange, which he said was beautiful but not agronomically strong, the bulk of the farm's seed came from conventional sources.

"Why is that?" Dillon wondered. "Where’s the organic seed?"

"So I got kind of obsessed, as I do, about the concept that you breed for the environment of intended use, and you breed for the management system of intended use," he said. "Organic environments and organic management systems were different."

That line of inquiry sent him up to Port Townsend, Washington, to the headquarters of Abundant Life, where he volunteered almost full time, eventually landing a spot on their board of directors. Having lost its executive director, the board asked Dillon to take the position as interim director, which led to his accepting the position of executive director.

And that's when the fire hit. A story in the Capital Press from August 8, 2003, summarized the damage:
"An early Monday morning fire in Port Townsend, Washington, that destroyed a landmark building, home to the oldest grocery store in the state, also destroyed Abundant Life Seed Foundation’s office, its extensive library and thousands of its seeds—hundreds of which were one-of-a-kind varieties. Matthew Dillon, executive director of the foundation, describes it as the loss of 29 years of collecting and stewarding germ plasm."
Reflecting on the effect of the devastating loss almost 15 years later, Dillon is sanguine.

At Wild Garden Seed in Philomath.

"By that time I’d met [Dr. John] Navazio and [Wild Garden Seed's Frank] Morton," he said. "All these guys who were saying, yeah, heirlooms are great and everything, but we can have the best heirlooms and we can start breeding in disease resistance and making these crops more workhorses and more robust. And that just intrigued me."

Dillon and the plant breeders and contract growers at Abundant Life had already started to improve some of the heirloom varieties, but their work wasn't without controversy, even within the organic community.

"We’d get angry letters, like 'how dare you not save the seed just as it is, how dare you make a cross or how dare you make a selection!'" he said, shaking his head. "It was intense.

"The whole thing was that heirlooms are not like these gifts handed down by the gods from Olympus to our grandparents. They evolved with those practices, intentionally or not."

Dillon feels that, in general, agricultural history hasn’t given credit to the farmer innovator, saying that farmers and gardeners have always riffed on what they find in their gardens and made selections based on their own preferences. He believes that's where we got the diversity of the heirloom and heritage seed that we find in catalogs and garden stores today.

"Our whole thing was the heirlooms of tomorrow," he said. "That’s all we were doing. In the long run, obviously, a lot of folks have embraced that and it’s become the focus of the alternative seed movement, going beyond heirlooms, still respecting conservation and the need for conservation."

Clif Bar Seed Matters initiative.

Out of the literal ashes of Abundant Life, Dillon founded the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) with Navazio, a renowned plant geneticist, agroecologist, author and organic seed production specialist. With a belief that seed is part of our common cultural heritage—a living, natural resource that demands careful management to meet food needs now and into the future—the OSA's mission was to support the growing organic seed movement and advance what it calls "ethical seed solutions" to meet food and farming needs in a changing world.

Under Dillon's leadership the OSA educated thousands of farmers and other agricultural community members, conducted professional organic plant breeding and seed production research, and advocated for national policies strengthening organic seed systems.

But, as Dillon said, "I'm not a manager, I'm a start-up guy." Once the OSA was humming along with great people like Navazio, Micaela Colley, Kiki Hubbard and others in place, he said, "I was like, I’m done. I’m ready for something new."

In the field.

That new, shiny thing came in the unexpected form of a job with a candy bar—or what these days is called an "energy bar"—company, Clif Bar. After leaving OSA, Dillon did some consulting, and the Clif Bar Family Foundation was one of his first clients. He found it intriguing because, though only about 70 percent of the ingredients in Clif Bar products were organic, its founders, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, wanted to figure out how to get more organics into the system, which meant scaling up the growing organic industry, starting with seed.

"I would tell them things like, the organic movement needs to stop marketing ourselves as being grandma and grandpa’s farm and going back a hundred years," he said. "We’re not going back. We’re using the best scientific principles and practices for our production system to figure out how to move our production system forward. To do that you have to give the farmers better tools, you have to understand cover cropping better, you have to understand soil management better, there’s all of this investment you need to make."

Rather than taking the tack of much of the organic movement, like making investments in fighting GMOs and GMO labeling, Dillon's experience told him that not enough investment was being made in agricultural research. His mission from that point on was clear. "Let’s start with seed," he said. "Let’s focus on a seed initiative that improves organic seed, and then let’s see where we can go from there."

He began his work at the foundation in 2009 by founding the company's Seed Matters initiative, with a mission to improve the viability and availability of organic seed to provide more nutritious and productive crops. It would do this by conserving crop genetic diversity, promoting farmers’ roles as seed innovators and stewards, and by reinvigorating public seed research and education. It meant working with farmers, educators, researchers, nonprofits, public universities, community gardeners and seed advocates, as well as establishing graduate fellowships for students to enter the field of organic plant breeding.

A chance to move over to the company and effect what he perceives of as systemic change has placed Dillon in a critical role, as Clif Bar's Director of Agricultural Policy and Programs. For Clif Bar, he said, it was a question of looking at their agricultural supply chain, then figuring out how to make investments that will be good for their farmers but also be good for the company.

Again, for Dillon it goes back to his upbringing in the Midwest in the 1970s.

"What I love about [Clif Bar] is, you hear about companies that are triple bottom lines; Clif Bar was this five bottom line," he said. "They have people, planet, community, business and brands, and agriculture they put under community aspiration, and to me that was really cool.

"As a kid growing up in a rural community, I’d seen the farm crisis in Nebraska in the late 70s—farmers' suicides, consolidation. All of that was alive and crushingly apparent in my community. I was watching people lose farms, family members and friends losing farms in the late seventies and early eighties. So, to me, it was the idea that big ag comes in and extracts value out of communities. It’s systemic."

While Dillon openly admits that Clif Bar is far from perfect, he said that they know they have work to do.

"Because the question of any food company should be, how do our decisions either add value to communities, make communities more robust and healthy and resilient, or how do they detract from that?" he said.

Photo of Dillon at Wild Garden Seed by Shawn Linehan.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Community Kitchen That Will Build Community



Stacey Givens has a vision for her community of a place where people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from every corner of our city can gather and share their stories through the food they grow and make.

She started The Side Yard Farm in 2009 on a couple of lots in the downtrodden Cully neighborhood for just that purpose. A short summary of its work would include providing 20 local restaurants with organic local produce, giving space to schools to teach kids about farm to table, offering the farm's outdoor dining area to beginning pop-up chefs trying to get their foot in the door, donating large amounts of produce to organizations, providing space for instructors to teach classes, and hosting The Lost Table, a grief group for those who've lost loved ones. This year Givens' "Welcome Refugees" supper series benefited refugees here in Portland and gave attendees a chance to hear their stories.

"The Side Yard has become family to many chefs, artisans, instructors, kiddos, beginning farmers, aspiring chefs, grief group folks and people from all over that world who are interested in learning more about the seed to plate movement," Givens said.

And she's not stopping there.

To celebrate the farm's 10th year in business, Givens is planning to expand to build a Community Supported Kitchen (CSK) in her neighborhood. With a $175,000 price tag to build out a new kitchen space in the former Delphina's Bakery on Northeast 42nd Avenue, she's asking for help with a Kickstarter campaign (video above) dedicated to purchasing equipment for the new kitchen.

"We have been searching for a suitable kitchen for more than 5 years to allow growth in a shared space with other like-minded culinary entrepreneurs," Givens said. "When we heard that a spot was opening up right down the street from the farm, we grew excited about the possibility of building deeper connections through education and visibility of hyperlocal farming and sourcing. The CSK will exist to provide other local businesses with a holistic model that prioritizes the flow of local produce from the farm to the kitchen to the consumer."

As of today, Givens is almost halfway to that goal with slightly more than $22,000 raised. But she'll get none of it if you don't chip in to help before the deadline of December 22nd. Please consider doing so!

Go to The Side Yarm Farm Community Supported Kitchen page on Kickstarter for more information and to donate.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Caponata with a Twist: Winter Squash!


'Tis the season for all kinds of squash-y deliciousness, and contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food has a great idea for a vegetarian main dish.

Using winter squash instead of eggplant for this Sicilian classic wasn't my idea, but it's a really good one. I've written before about my preference for the big, pumpkin-y Cucurbit varieties, and since they provide a lot of squash to eat, I'm always looking for another way to use them. But you can make this with any good winter squash. You'll want about three cups of cut up squash.

Cut the squash into roughly 3/4-inch chunks (if you have any leftover roasted squash, cut it into bite-sized pieces and add after cooking the other vegetables). Toss it into a skillet slicked with extra virgin olive oil and cook over medium heat. Chop and toss in a red onion, a couple of celery stalks, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a good handful of green olives, and a couple of tablespoons of whole capers. Add a good pinch of salt, too.

When the squash is tender (maybe 15 minutes), add a splash (2 tablespoons or so) of Katz Trio red wine vinegar, a healthy squirt of Three Brothers cane syrup (or a couple of tablespoons of sugar or honey), and about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook for another 5 minutes to let the flavors blend, then sprinkle with a few pinches of oregano. Drizzle with more extra virgin on the plate.

You can eat this warm as vegetable side, but I like it best at room temperature with good bread.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Squash Sagra: Get Your Squash On This Weekend!


Quick quiz:
  1. When was the last time you ate squash? How was it prepared?
  2. When was the last time you bought a whole squash?
  3. How many varieties can you name (besides acorn and butternut)?
For answers to these and other squash-related questions, you should plan to attend the Squash Sagra, a festival devoted to all things squash this Sunday, December 3, from 11 am to 3 pm at The Redd on Southeast 9th and Salmon St.

Musquée de Provence.

The Sagra—local festival in Italian—is free and open to the public in conjunction with the annual Fill Your Pantry event hosted by Friends of Family Farmers. Local chefs will be handing out samples of squash dishes they've prepared, sharing recipes and discussing flavors and culinary uses of the diverse varieties of squash grown locally. Farmers will be offering a wide array of vegetables, beans and grains for purchase on-site, so there'll be something for everyone.

Kabocha squash.

You'll also have the opportunity to learn about the four categories of squash: sweet squash perfect for desserts, baked goods and pastries; simple squash that can be baked or steamed with no added ingredients; salad squash with their excellent flavor and texture when eaten raw; and saucy squash that are ideal for sauces, soups or curries. (See the Eat Winter Squash website for more info and photos.)

Black futsu.

There'll be a squash butchery booth where chef Tim Wastell will share pro tips and techniques for cutting up and storing the larger squash varieties. Uprising Seeds, Washington state's first 100% organic seed company, will be demonstrating a European seed oil press to make your own seed oils. There'll be a kids' play area for younger folk to taste samples of these delectable cucurbits and learn about how squash grow. And of course there's the ubiquitous Photo Booth where you can cuddle up to the cucurbit of your choice and take home a photo that'll prove your love.

"I've been wanting to do a sagra like this for a long time," said Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, one of the sponsors of the sagra. "Hopefully people will get really inspired and learn a lot about the different categories of squash that are grown in our area."

Get my recipes for squash soup, squash pie and squash risotto. Even squash sorbet (it's delicious, I promise)!

Top photo by Shawn Linehan featuring Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network admiring a Doran Round Butternut squash from Adaptive Seeds Farm. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Farm Bulletin: Our Land of Tule and Cattails


You might ask why a farmer would devote nearly half his acreage to support a wetland rather than filling it and growing more crops. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm has his reasons.

It is hard to muster much sympathy for nutria, with their beady little eyes and humorless demeanor. Then again, the poor dears spend the summer quietly feeding and building among the tule and cattails—unobserved bliss in nutria terms. Then the water level rises and migratory water fowl descend. The geese and cormorants haze them mercilessly and defecate all over their tussocks, and the eagles eye them hungrily. They cluster together, four or five, to avoid being picked off as prey. This morning the water is very high and a shard of sympathy is felt.

Patches of tule at the south end of the wetland.

Ayers Creek Farm has nearly 80 acres of ground suited to the production of crops. The remaining 64 acres include a 40-acre open wetland, 20 acres of oak savannah and some swales of green ash and hawthorn. A little over half the farm is a managed landscape, a little under is largely unmanaged. It is hard to imagine the farm without its two hemispheres. For us, a highly productive square of farmland would be a dull place indeed without the messy exuberance of the wild areas bleeding into our efforts at an organized ecology.

This spring we were approached by a botanist volunteering for the UFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. Ginny Maffit was curious about our bottomland which, she had heard through the grapevine, was a fine example of an undisturbed wetland community. In response, we explained the process whereupon it became “undisturbed,” a term the nutria would dispute. Several notes, edited and merged, describe how the wetland developed and matured.

* * *

Our wetland, about 40 acres in extent, was cultivated until 2002. It is mostly Labish muck*. Because it is outside of the local dike system, it tended to flood early, making harvest difficult. For many years, the "Wapato Improvement District" managed water level in the valley bottom for onion growing. Over time, onion growers died off and their families eventually sold the various holdings to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a Wapato Lake refuge.

Wapato or arrowhead flower.

As onion-growing petered out, pumping patterns within the dike changed, increasing the challenges. We asked TVID [Tualatin Valley Irrigation District] to let the water rise as security measure for the other irrigated fields on our property, providing a buffer capacity. We fretted initially because many people told us we would end up with a thicket of reed canary grass. Several people identified a certain piece of property within the lake, owned by a federal agency, that turned into a canary grass wasteland. We had never seen it, but heard about it a lot. On the other hand, along highway 47, south of milepost 22, there is a small patch of wetland that we had always envied because of its vegetative structure.

We poked about the government websites researching wetland restoration, but the approach always seemed to be heavy-handed and inconsistent with our appreciation of natural succession. We are organic farmers by disposition. In addition, we have confidence in the way natural systems can repair a site. The first few years a low, rhizomatous grass took over the low areas on the site, dominated by Labish muck. And, as predicted by Gaston's Greek chorus anticipating another tragedy, reed canary grass quickly occupied the Wapato silty clay soils, a foot or two higher in elevation but still flooded from October through March. Another year or two passed, and we noticed the vegetation was starting to shift. Through the thick thatch of the "witch" grasses, we saw new plants emerging. In the reed canary grass, several different woody plants established themselves, including roses, ashes, hawthorns and spirea.

A cinnamon teal nest.

By 2007, the bottom had developed a remarkable mosaic of vegetation types. Tule, bulrushes, cattails, wapato, sedges, rushes and various grasses were all represented in bands and islands. The hardwood shrubs and trees are now establishing themselves along the fringes. It is a beautiful example of a natural wetland succession, predominantly native in composition. Now the Chorus’ chant can praise the natural qualities of the wetland.

Yes, there are some non-native species, especially along the eastern fringe. However, the bulk of the wetland represents as fine a native wetland as you can find, resulting from a simple, just-add-water approach. Cost us next to nothing in treasure or effort, and has provided endless pleasure. There is a rich assemblage of nesting birds. The last two years, we have had between 20 and 65 white pelicans foraging in the shallows during the spring. One sultry evening this summer, we spent an hour watching a yellow breasted chat as it bounced from one perch to another. At the south end, there is a big patch of tule where the marsh wrens build their softball-sized and shaped nests. Another reason to tarry on the way to nowhere in particular.

Drained wetland systems that have been cultivated for decades do not have much to contribute vis-a-vis their seed bank. So how did all these plants find their way to our swampy hole? Wetlands are generally connected via water courses and/or fauna (birds and mammals), and these provided the seed source. Growing up in New England, we are familiar with shifting wetlands following a move-in by beavers damming a stream, necessitating a portage. Within about the same space of time as our wetland development, these ponds would fill in with the species typical of wetlands along the water course.

Wapato or Arrowhead growing in clumps.

Our wetland is illustrative of this mechanism. As we are outside the dike, we received seeds and other propagules from the diverse, vestigial patches of the original Wapato Lake that fringe the outer wetland fragments that have never been cropped. Not of great extent or particularly interesting to most, but of immense importance to holes. As the system drains in late winter, the water flows upstream from these patches, as well as downstream, so we get a nice dose of propagules from these areas. Because it is a case of mass selection rather than a managed planting, the various species and assemblages find their appropriate place in the mosaic of soil types and water depths. Planted “restorations” in our estimation always look planted, a forced pattern discordant to the eye.

We see our patch of wetland as a grow-out of the Wapato Lake's historic flora, maybe not complete in terms of species but functionally whole. It provides a summer home for the bitterns, grebes, rails, marsh wrens and cinnamon teal and other ducks. We have a large and diverse population of dragonflies as well, and they spend the summer hawking among our crops.

All-pelican production of Swan Lake.

Among the birds is a tundra swan that has been there since January or so. It was probably injured rather than uninspired to take flight, however it an observation based on sedentary behavior rather than seeing an injury. Otherwise very healthy, no signs of distress. It continues to stretch its wings, moves well on land and water, a nice natural water feature. This autumn it has been joined by 16 other swans, including two grey cygnets. This is the second year we have hosted white pelicans, one evening we counted 65, though typically they numbered around 24. These huge, ungainly birds are spectacular when they come in to land. The swan, unimpressed by their magnificence, stayed apart, and engaged in some agitated head bobbing when they came close.

Over that last four years the wetland, formerly leveled for agricultural use, has developed a distinctly hummocky aspect. The architects are the nutria, regarded as vermin by most farmers and used as target practice by local kids. These hirsute engineers create channels and pools so they can move about the wet areas safely and efficiently, their own variation of Venice's canals. There may be muskrats as well, but the nutria are the dominant rodents. Walking the wetland's fringe, it is apparent that the channels of the rodents are extending the wetland vegetation in the areas dominated by the reed canary grass. Wetland plants are well adapted to herbivory. In fact their growth is generally stimulated by the activity, as is evident by the work of the nutria. Native Americans observed and understood the stimulatory effect of their harvest, and maintained vigorous beds of wapato. That is why we are sanguine about harvesting some of the corms for our restaurant accounts.

* Muck is a high organic content soil type formed from former lake bottom deposits. “Labish muck” is a series found in the Willamette Valley. The type was first described from the remains of Lake Labish in the Salem area. The muck of Lake Wapato shares its characteristics, so it falls into that soil type.

All photos by Anthony Boutard.

Monday, November 27, 2017

My Kimchi Quest: First Try and Kimchi Fried Rice


I've finally decided to get over my fear of fermentation, that nagging worry that I'm going to kill my family with a deadly bacteria, or at a minimum have glass shards and vinegary vegetables blown all over my kitchen. (Is it any wonder my superpower is coming up with the worst case scenario for any and all occasions?)

Korean kimchi crocks.

But with assurances from experienced friends that neither of those outcomes was likely, and with one quick experiment under my belt—a shrub, or drinking vinegar that my neighbor Bill shared with me—I've decided to tackle kimchi, the ubiquitous pickled and red-peppered cabbage dish found at every meal in Korea. My goal is to make a kimchi similar to the one I had as a foreign exchange student in that country, made by my host mother and stored in earthen crocks on the flat roof of her home.

Kimchi ingredients.

I've found a commercial one that's very reminscent of hers, the Napa Kimchi made by Choi's Kimchi, a local company that began when founder Chong Choi took his kimchi, which he'd been making for his family and sharing with his neighbors, to sell at the farmers' market. Starting with that profile, for my recipe search I decided to start slow, with a super simple recipe by Julia Moskin of the New York Times that she adapted from Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.

While it worked like a charm—No death! No explosions!—and was quite delicious, it's not as spicy or quite as vinegary as my Korean mother's (or Choi's). So I'll keep looking for recipes that will measure up to those fond and drool-inducing memories.

Kimchi, and lots of it!

In the meantime, these experiments mean that I've got jars of the pickled, cabbagey Korean condiment resting comfortably in my fridge. Julia's recipe produced about three quarts or so of the stuff, and since my family isn't in the "let's have kimchi for every meal" groove, in order to clear space for the next batch I've had to come up with some creative uses for it.

This kimchi fried rice recipe is cobbled together from several online sources and is terrific all on its own or when combined with various proteins—think tofu, leftover chicken, even seared slices of beef. You can cook up the rice just for the recipe, but if you have leftover rice sitting in the fridge, I think it actually works better.

And I'll keep you updated on my quest for that kimchi of my dreams!

Kimchi Fried Rice

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. bacon, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 c. kimchi (with juice)
2 c. enoki mushrooms (or other mushrooms)
4 c. cooked jasmine rice
1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil, to taste
1 Tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
2 Tbsp. gochujang, to taste (available at Asian or specialty grocers)
Salt, to taste
4 eggs

In large skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add bacon and sauté until it starts to render its fat. Add onions and sauté till tender. Add garlic and stir to warm it, then add kimchi and mushrooms. Sauté until tender. Add rice and sesame oil and combine well. When it’s warm and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, taste it for seasoning and add fish sauce and gochujang, as well as salt, if desired.

When ready to serve, fry eggs separately in a bit more vegetable oil, keeping yolks soft and runny. Put the fried rice in a bowl and top each serving with a fried egg (or two).

Serves four.

Photo of kimchi crocks (onggi) from Wikimedia.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Food News: Farm Bill Reboot; Edible Portland Expires Under Cloud


Today Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is hosting a broad range of experts and stakeholders for a forum titled “A Call for Reform: Fix the Farm Bill,” that focuses on the need to create a more visionary, equitable and cost-effective farm bill. The forum features Michael Pollan (top photo, center), author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, who is delivering the keynote, followed by a panel discussion with a group of policy experts to discuss their ideas for the reform that he's calling The Food and Farm Act.

In an interview about his re-envisioned farm bill on the website Civil Eats, the congressman said that "we continue to pay too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places" and that he's working to reform subsidies to support innovation and small-to-midsize farmers rather than large corporate agribusinesses.

As he told Good Stuff NW in an interview earlier this year, he's building a coalition of consumers, farmers and non-profits to provide "support for protecting the environment, water quality, habitat [and] things that help the farmer and have broader social and economic benefit. The big issue is that all the attention and subsidy is skewed toward things that don’t need it, and shortchanges things that do, upon which we’re heavily reliant."

One unique element of his efforts is a comic book, "The Fight for Food: Why You Deserve a Better Farm Bill," that explains why the Farm Bill matters to people who care about their food and talks about how they can get involved.

Read my interview with Rep. Blumenauer, part of "The Future of Our Food" series. Photo courtesy Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office.


* * *


Sad news came today that Alex Corcoran, owner and publisher of Edible Portland magazine, has announced that the magazine will cease publication after the current November/December issue.

Corcoran bought the magazine last year after Ecotrust, which had owned the publication since its inception in 2006, decided to cease publication after the Spring 2015 issue and put it up for sale. At the time that Corcoran bought it, Eric Thorkilsen, then-CEO of Edible Media, said, "Alex has a great track record of success managing Edible publications, starting with Edible Rhody [Edible Rhode Island] and continuing with Edible Seattle. His capacity to immerse himself in the local food community—forming solid relationships with small businesses and attracting a devoted readership—suggests a great future for Edible Portland."

The first edition under Corcoran's leadership was the September, 2016, issue. Corcoran initially posted an ad for the sale of the magazine, but because of contractual disagreements with Ecotrust, he has pulled the ad.

In an e-mail to Good Stuff NW, Carolyn Holland, VP of Engagement at Ecotrust, said that Corcoran "does not have the rights to sell the magazine. He has been in breach of his contract with Ecotrust since 2015 when he signed on to assume the license. While we were working with him to give him time to get it on track, now that he has decided to fold, the rights to magazine will revert to [Ecotrust]."

Mr. Corcoran declined a request to comment for this post.

* * *

UPDATE: I received the following update today (11/28) from Carolyn Holland at Ecotrust:

"Free Range Media, publisher of Edible Portland, is ceasing publication of the award-winning magazine at the end of 2017. According to a previous agreement, Edible Portland will return to its original owner and publisher, Ecotrust, which originally launched the magazine in 2006 as one of the first Edibles in the nation. Ecotrust will work with the national media organization Edible Communities, licensor of more than 90 Edible magazines across the United States and Canada, to find a new home for the magazine. Edible Portland boasts a devoted readership of more than 75,000 and has a solid base of both advertisers and contributors. Ecotrust is committed to supporting a smooth transition in ownership. If you are interested in becoming the publisher of Edible Portland, please contact Carolyn Holland, Ecotrust’s VP of Engagement, at 503.467.0754."

Read my recent article for Edible Portland, "Big Milk: Big Issues for Local Communities."

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Edible Seattle was for sale. It is not. Corcoran is inviting a new publisher to start an Edible magazine in the South Sound area.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Green Bean Casserole, Redux


I just realized that Thanksgiving is next week, not two or three weeks in the future as I had somehow convinced myself. Luckily I contacted my turkey connection this last week, congratulating myself for being so ahead of the game. (Oops!) So now the long list of possible sides is being compiled, to be added to the "must haves" of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pie, and the voting and deal-making is getting fierce. Real Good Food contributor Jim Dixon's recipe for reconstructed green bean casserole, using still-in-season foraged chanterelles, is high on the list.

Green Bean "Casserole"

I can't eat the old school version anymore, but I came up with this homage that provides the same flavors but tastes much better. If you can get chanterelles, use them, but any mushrooms will work.

Slice a pound of mushrooms and put them in a skillet with some salt but no added fat [or oil] over medium high heat. The mushrooms will start giving up water right away, and you want to cook them in their own juices until it's almost gone before adding a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. (If we're having the usual November weather, chanterelles can be very wet, and this technique concentrates the flavor and improves the texture. It also works with most mushrooms.)

After you add the oil, add a finely chopped shallot and a good shot of dry sherry (a good fino is perfect). Let that bubble away for a few minutes, then add a pound of green beans that you've cooked in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes and drained. Pour in about a half cup of heavy cream, bring to a boil, and cook for a maybe 5 minutes or until the cream has thickened and the beans are tender. Adjust the salt, add some black pepper if you feel like it, and serve topped with crispy fried onions from a can (Lars is a Danish brans sold at New Seasons that's better then the ubiquitous French's). You could make your own or substitute bread crumbs or nuts, but I think some kind of crunchy topping is required. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Farm Bulletin: The Roots of Ayers Creek Farm


The following post was written by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm for Big Picture Agriculture, an excellent blog about trends and developments in agriculture, food and farming.

"Anthony Boutard, born in Massachusetts, grew an early appreciation for plants from his father who was a renowned botanist. Educated as a biologist with a graduate degree in Forestry, Anthony and his wife Carol moved out to Oregon in the early 1990s for Anthony to work with a company called 1000 Friends of Oregon, which focuses on land use and landscape preservation. After a few years in Portland, Anthony and Carol decided to take up farming and purchased a 144-acre working farm out in Gaston, about 30 miles from the city. Their philosophy is simple: to grow what tastes good and does well on their land."

The photos below are "lantern slides" taken c.1900 in a beautifully rugged region of Switzerland. Anthony assumes that the photos were taken by his Danish great-grandfather, Ernest Boutard, an engineer who had a patent partnership in Copenhagen, but whose heart was at home in the mountains. He studied at the Polytechnic in Zürich. His grandmother's family was from Graubünden, Switzerland.

[Anthony provided the captions to go with the photos. Click on a photo to see a full size version.]


The reckoning after the cheese has aged in a family cheese-making operation. The Appenzell produces a very fine aged cow’s milk cheese available in most cheese shops today. [Anthony notes: "The cheeses of Switzerland remain exceptional because they still adhere to the practice of moving the herds to the high pastures where the lactating cows graze on the alpine flora, the same intensely flavored vegetation used to produce the amaros (kräuterlikörs), bitter liqueurs that I savor as much as the cheeses."]


Celebrating the ascent of the village’s livestock to the high, summer pastures. Following tradition still extant today, that procession is led by children and Appenzeller goats, a hornless breed of the region. The three lead cows bear large, harmonized ceremonial bells, sounding three different notes, for the occasion. These are not practical for grazing. The regular bells worn by the grazing cows are much smaller and lighter, made of plain steel. The leather collar is heavier than the bell. The man leading the cows carries a milking bucket on his shoulder per tradition. (Note that the man in the center is not in the celebratory finery, and other cows are wandering about, not part of the procession.) [Anthony notes: "It was striking to see the modern Appenzeller parade where the choreography is unchanged over the course of a century."]


Harvesting wine grapes, most likely in the canton Ticino. Note the tile roof on the buildings. Ticino, bordering Italy, is the mildest region of Switzerland.


A building for storing grains. The flat rocks between the granary and its supports keep rodents from entering the stores. Yes, that is the Matterhorn in the background.


Flowering chestnuts growing in the canton Valais. The chestnuts were called the "bread of the poor," providing sustenance in challenging times and circumstances. Roasted or boiled when fresh, they were also dried and ground to make a flour for polenta and baking.


Milking goats in a high summer pasture, as well as goats being goats as is their wont. This was taken either in the canton Appenzell or Graubünden (Grisons). These are the progenitors of what is known today as the Grisons Striped goat, a tough mountain breed at home in sparse rocky pastures.


Pausing at a shrine on the way to bringing milk from the high, summer pasture. Likely canton Valais in the southern part of the country. Raclette is its signature cheese, though many types are produced in the region. (The mountains in the background remind me of the Dents du Midi.)


Service in a mountain community, probably in the Appenzell. The 19th century saw the depopulation of rural Swiss communities. Some to other European cities, like my great great-grandfather who left his small village in Graubünden and learned to make pianos in Cologne, Germany, ultimately settling in Zürich. Others immigrated to the Americas. There are people of Swiss descent from Argentina to Canada. At the height of the exodus, during the 1880s some 82,000 migrated to the U.S. Towns named Bern, Helvetia, and Glarus, names which betray their Swiss roots.

Thanks to Big Picture Agriculture and Anthony Boutard for allowing me to share this essay.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Big Milk: Big Issues for Local Communities


Giant factory farms are moving to Oregon, bringing with them concerns about our rural communities, the environment, and how we want to grow our economy, as well as challenging long-held traditions of our state’s agriculture as one based on small, family-scale farms. This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Edible Portland magazine (full article here).

It’s important to respect “the cow-ness of the cow,” says Oregon dairyman Jon Bansen, a member of the farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley. He's quoting sustainable farm guru Joel Salatin in explaining what differentiates his pasture-raised cows from those living their lives in closed buildings on a factory farm.

Monmouth dairy farmers Jon and Juli Bansen.

“It turns out that some things get more efficient with size, but biology doesn’t,” he says of the large mega-dairies that have taken up residence near the small Columbia River town of Boardman at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. “To be standing on concrete, fed high levels of grain, treated like a widget instead of a biological being—it shortens their lifespan.”

Animal welfare isn’t the only reason to worry about mega-dairies. Another cost of these giant factory farms is to Oregon’s small dairies. In 2001, mega-dairy Threemile Canyon Farms, a 70,000-cow facility near Boardman, began supplying milk to the Tillamook County Creamery Association’s manufacturing plant nearby. One of the results of this move was that an average of nine family-owned Oregon dairy farms went out of business each month between 2002 and 2007.

Why did this happen?

“Mega-dairies flood the market with milk, driving down milk prices and making it increasingly difficult for family farmers to stay afloat,” Bansen wrote in an editorial in the Salem Statesman Journal.

Mega-dairies also degrade the lives of local communities. Bansen wrote that “the ways in which family dairy farmers and mega-dairies contribute to a community are drastically different. When something breaks, family farmers typically buy parts from the local store. When their animals need veterinary attention, they call the local vet. They support their feed stores, tractor-supply stores, and more. After a hard day on the farm, family farmers often engage in their community, schools, civic groups, and churches.”

Bansen emphasized that employees at mega-dairies have neither the time nor the money to spend in their communities because of low wages and the long hours demanded of them. And any equipment needed at the dairy is bought from the cheapest (mostly non-local) sources, and profits are sent off to corporate, often out-of-state, offices.

Waste and Groundwater

To give an idea of how large these mega-dairies are, all you have to do is refer to their corporate websites. Threemile Canyon’s cows—consisting of 25,000 milk cows, 30,000 replacement heifers, 7,000 steers, and an 8,000-calf nursery—produce 165,000 gallons of milk per day. If you look at a satellite view of the property, you see that the buildings the cows live in are so vast that employees have to drive to get from one end to the other.

Waste runoff at Threemile Canyon.

The amount of waste that these 70,000 cows produce is also mind-boggling—estimates are around 436 million gallons of liquid manure every year. One of the several open-air, double-lined waste pits, called lagoons, covers more than 20 acres. While these large facilities have permits for discharging waste under the Clean Water Act, a state statute (ORS 468B-025) prohibits any of it from entering “waters of the state.”

“It says in very broad terms that no person in Oregon shall place or cause to be placed waste where it may enter waters of the state by any means,” says Wym Matthews, fertilizer program manager of the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) for the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). “There’s the broad thought in Oregon that folks should be responsible and not allow material they are managing—waste or not—to get into the waters and cause a problem.”

In other states, leaks from lagoons have endangered the drinking water of cities that rely on rivers as a water source, and manure from the spills has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of fish in waterways. Recently, a major liquid manure spill from a dairy operation in the Tillamook area caused the closure of Tillamook Bay due to contamination from fecal coliform, which had a significant economic impact on commercial oyster growers in the area.

The thing that worries Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), an organization that supports socially and environmentally responsible family-scale agriculture in Oregon, is that much of the reporting and monitoring is left up to the operations themselves.

Cow standing in waste at Threemile Canyon.

“The reality is that it’s not possible for there to be no discharge at all, so it’s a bit of an aspirational permit, if you will,” Maluski says. “They often rely on the CAFOs themselves to report a problem because [ODA inspectors] visit them typically once a year. Or, if someone says, ‘Hey they’re spreading manure out there, and it looks like it’s going in the creek’ on a Saturday, if ODA can’t get out there until Monday, they might not see anything.”

And now that another mega-dairy—30,000-cow Lost Valley Farm, just 30 miles from the Threemile Canyon operation—has received a permit from the ODA, farm organizations like FoFF and the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), as well as consumer protection groups like the Center for Food Safety (CFS), are on high alert.

The land occupied by these two factory farms is one of three sites in Oregon designated as a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA), so named because nitrate concentrations in many area groundwater samples exceed the federal safe drinking water standard. “What’s so concerning about putting another mega-dairy in an existing groundwater management area is that the Lower Umatilla Basin was designated in the ’90s as a place where there were already too many nitrates in the water—water people use for drinking,” says Amy van Saun, an attorney for CFS. “This is only going to make it worse.”

Wym Matthews doesn’t disagree. “I would describe the groundwater-monitoring well data from the Lower Umatilla GWMA as mixed,” he says. “There are some wells that are staying stagnant and not getting better or worse, some that are getting better, and some that are getting worse.”

Open-air waste lagoon at Threemile Canyon.

Asked how the ODA could issue a permit in such a sensitive area, Matthews says that the only way a permit could be issued is if the agencies believe that the permit is restrictive enough so that if there was discharge, it would violate the discharge standard. For Lost Valley, the department has set the discharge standard at zero.

“How can the state say yes to [Lost Valley Farm], which is clearly going to add a risk of nitrates leaching into the groundwater, when you’ve already got an area that’s impaired and not getting any better?” Maluski asks. “When they were digging their manure lagoons for that facility, they actually hit groundwater at 10 feet, so they had to get a special water right to pump groundwater away from their lagoons. It’s just absurd. Obviously, they’re going to have a couple of liners, but if those liners fail, you’ve got a very serious direct contamination of the groundwater.”

Emissions and Air Pollution

As many restrictions as there are related to the potential release of waste from these industrial farms into groundwater and nearby waters, there are no such restrictions on the very real emissions that are released into the air. Nearly a decade ago, the Oregon legislature passed a bill to address air emissions from these mega-dairies. Called the Oregon Dairy Air Quality Task Force, it was comprised of stakeholders from across the political spectrum, including representatives from government, academic institutions, the dairy industry, and public interest groups.

Warning sign at a confined facility.

The task force studied the current scientific literature relating to air pollutants, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter emitted by these operations.

“Ten years ago, that task force came up with some really strong recommendations for how the state could move forward with some rules around air quality in order to get ahead of the problem of these operations coming in and having a lack of regulations to mitigate emissions,” says Kendra Kimbirauskas, a member of the task force and the current CEO of SRAP. “And 10 years later, none of those recommendations went anywhere despite the fact that it was a consensus list of recommendations.”

Kimbirauskas says that at SRAP, which works across the country with communities that are directly impacted by factory farms, she’s seen what these operations do to rural communities. “It’s just like every other extractive industry,” she says, comparing factory farms to extraction industries like mining and industrial timber that threaten forests and wild lands.

“This is the same model with a different face,” Kimbirauskas continues. “It’s the idea that these out-of-state companies or corporations can come in, and they can call themselves family farms. But you can put lipstick on a cow, and it’s still a factory farm cow. They come in, and they’re extracting local resources. They’re extracting the water, they’re extracting the local wealth, and they’re sending it off to faraway places. They’re externalizing all of their costs of production, first and foremost, on the local community, on the local environment, and on the state.

“If we’re not careful, and we’re not paying attention to these issues now,” she warns, “by the time it does become in our face, it’s going to be too late, and what we love about Oregon agriculture and the local farm economy will be threatened.”

Read the rest of the article raising questions about the "closed loop" systems at these mega-dairies and the fears of local governments that their hands are tied when it comes to the siting of these large industrial facilities in their communities.

Top photo from the East Oregonian. Photo of Bansens from Organic Valley Co-operative. Photos of Threemile Canyon Farms from Friends of Family Farmers.