Legislative Report: Factory Farm Moratorium in Danger; Canola, Raw Milk Updates

Legislative maneuvering on the part of Oregon's powerful agriculture lobby has killed one bill and basically gutted another since my last Legislative Report.

The Factory Farm Moratorium bill, SB 85-1 (formerly HB 2667), suffered a setback when an amendment was proposed (SB 85-3) limiting the bill to apply only to poultry factory farms, as well as shrinking the moratorium from eight to only two years, not nearly enough time to make the necessary changes to Oregon's laws and regulations. According to one insider, "while the amendment was an attempt by the committee to offer a compromise, industrial interests will never get to neutral on a moratorium, let alone support it, [so the effort] was all in vain."

A press release from the Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition of 50 public interest groups cites problems caused by current mega-dairy operations that would be unaddressed by the proposed amendment, including:

  • The 11 mega-dairy facilities operating in the state produce over 17 million kilograms of planet-warming methane every year. 
  • The Lower Umatilla Basin, home to some of the largest operating and proposed mega-dairies in Oregon, suffers from depleted and degraded groundwater with widespread nitrate contamination to drinking water wells, affecting the health of area residents. 
  • Forty years ago, Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, mostly small, family-owned businesses. As factory dairy farms have come to dominate state milk production, just over 200 family-scale dairies remain.

Despite public hearings showing Oregonians are in favor of the moratorium by a 3-to-1 margin, the new amendment basically gutting the intent of the original bill is being promoted as a "compromise" by industrial agricultural interests in the state.

More information here.

TAKE ACTION NOW: Sign this petition to support a full moratorium on factory farms so Oregon can establish a comprehensive regulatory system to protect our health, the health of our communities and the environment.

The Canola Protected District (SB 789) bill, which would permanently place restrictions on growing canola within Willamette Valley Protected District, has passed out of committee thanks to the help of citizen action. The Willamette Valley is one of the last regions on earth suitable for large-scale brassica seed production—crops like kale, cabbage, mustard, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi—and grows over 90% of the world's supply of many brassica seed varieties.

Canola is a low-value oil seed oil product that can cross-pollinate with brassicas, and because it is mostly a genetically modified (GMO) crop, is particularly dangerous for Oregon's organic seed industry—if organic seed is found to be contaminated from GMO crops, the whole seed crop from the farm can be destroyed, potentially putting it out of business.

The bill will now be sent to the full Senate with a "do pass" recommendation from the committee. More information here.

Raw Milk Sales (HB 2616), the bill to expand small farmers' ability to sell raw milk to the public, was killed in committee by pressure on legislators from large dairy interests, as well as a disinformation campaign targeting legislators at a public hearing regarding the safety of the product.

The bill would have expanded the venues where farms under the micro-dairy exemptions could sell raw milk, to include delivery, at farmers' markets and farm stands if they label the raw milk. The bill would also have legalized the retail sale of raw cow milk and cow milk products to retail stores including butter, cheese and ice cream.

Though the disinformation was refuted by farmers and advocates who cited an internationally accepted product standard to ensure safety, after the hearing the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) issued a surprise ruling that would require farms selling raw cows' milk, most of which have three cows or less, to get a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation certificate from the state, normally a process only required of farms with more than 200 cows. Oddly, Oregon is the only state in the nation whose regulations—and the proposed ODA ruling—only apply to raw milk from cows, not raw milk from goats or sheep. Go figure.

In Season: Spring Has Sprung!

On this Solstice day, I am trying to think of a spring that I've anticipated more than this one. I'm not sure this winter's waning has been any colder or wetter than any other—remember how farmers couldn't plant their fields last spring because their tractors were getting mired in mud up to their axles? And all the spring vegetables at the markets—asparagus, strawberries—were anywhere from two weeks to a month late.

Call it raab, rabe, rapini, or just plain delicious!

But, oh my gosh, I'm ready for my spring fix with a particular passion this year, and from what I'm hearing I'm not the only one. Even my favorite produce pusher, Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce, when he spied me filling my basket at Providore the other day, dashed over to nail a date to talk spring things.

When we did manage to sit down, the first topic was brassicas and the raabs, rabes and rapinis they're sprouting with a vengeance, from kale to cauliflower, tatsoi, mustard greens, turnips, bok choy and their many cousins. Look for towering stacks of these inflorescences at farmers' market tables along with their lookalike cousins, kalettes, broccolini and purple sprouting broccoli—sound really cool and call it "PSB"—which are not technically inflorescences but are traditionally bred, distinct hybrids.

Spring alliums like this green garlic are here!

Spring roots are also coming on and should be in plentiful supply. Look for piles of hakurei turnips, a rainbow of radishes—French breakfast, white icicle, black radishes and daikons—along with spring carrots.

Alsberg said he's seeing local green garlic and Spanish calçots on local farm lists, but he said spring onions are probably a couple of weeks from appearing at the markets; after that will come the garlic scapes with their twining stems. Herbs like chervil, Italian parsley, dill, sorrel and cilantro should be appearing soon, so get your salsa verde and chimichurri recipes ready. One of my personal favorite greens, arugula, at its peppery, spicy best early in the season, should be here soon, too.

Don't forget foraged greens like these fiddlehead ferns.

Legume greens have arrived, including pea shoots and fava greens, and coming in mid-April we'll start to see the very first local asparagus, foraged greens like fiddleheads and nettles (top photo), imported ramps and West Coast-grown triangle leeks, so named for their triangle-shaped stems. If you see flowers on those leeks or on the pea shoots and fava greens, Alsberg said they're mighty tasty and terrific in salads or scattered over grilled greens.

If we have a normal spring with no hard freezes or drenching rains, head lettuces should appear in mid-April, but we won't see any local fruit for awhile—local strawberries should be available around Mother's Day (May 14th this year) though Groundwork Organics and Riverland Family Farms (formerly Denison Farms) might have some as early as late April.

As always, Alberg reminds us that if there's a special item you need at the market for that spring dish, the best strategy is to go early because they can sell out quickly—it's not just you and I that are itching for spring!

Guest Essay: Farmers Rally at Nation's Capitol for Climate Resilience

Michael Guebert (the tall guy on the left, above), who with his wife Linda owns Terra Farma, a multi-species sustainable farm in Corbett, Oregon, went to Washington, DC, last week to lobby Oregon's congressional delegation and participate in a rally called "Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience." Guebert is a full-time farmer, an elected member of the Board of Directors at the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWCD)a farm mentor for the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) and an advocate for better state and national policies regarding agriculture. Here is his report:

Let’s start with a simple one-question quiz: Can you name the #1 export from American soil in terms of tons per acre? 

You might guess corn, soy, beef, wheat or a myriad of other products, but, in fact, the number one export from American soil is just that—topsoil. Across the nation, our farmland loses an average of over five tons of topsoil per acre every year, and with that, carbon that has been sequestered for generations is lost to the atmosphere and its potential to store carbon in the future could be permanently compromised. The impact from soil disturbance and erosion is a significantly under-reported driver of climate change, but also represents an opportunity. Our ecological systems are resilient, to a point, but the time to act is now, before we meet the proverbial point of no return.

Farmers from across the country rallied over climate issues.

So, in that spirit of resilience, on March 7th and 8th a broad coalition of farmers from across the country converged on Washington, DC, for the “Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience” and I was honored to be selected to attend. After last year’s Farm Aid concert, board members Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, and Margo Price came up with an idea to recreate the famous tractorcade of 1979 when thousands of farmers from across the country drove their tractors to the nation's capital in the hopes of bringing change to agricultural policy. 

In 2023, clogging the streets with farm equipment would be impractical, so Farm Aid worked with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to bring together all their affiliates and the farmers they work with for a rally and meetings with their senators and representatives. I applied for one of the handful of slots and found out last month that I was selected, and I was so excited for the opportunity, as well as my first-ever trip to Washington, DC.  

Can you name the #1 export from American soil in terms of tons per acre?

This year is particularly critical because the farm bill is reauthorized every five years. A new farm bill will be passed before the end of this year, so dozens of similar groups from around the country brought hundreds of farmers to lobby for a farm bill that would reallocate money that is currently going to destructive industrial agricultural practices to instead go to policies that prioritize family farms, climate-friendly practices, and producers that have been socially or economically excluded from previous farm bill benefits.  

In 1979 this tractor drove from Texas to DC to attend the rally.

The events began with a rally just east of the White House at Freedom Plaza where we listened to a speech by one of the organizers of that original tractorcade. (He even brought the tractor he drove here from Texas in 1979!) We also heard many touching stories of the struggles faced by so many in our farm community, like Marielena Vega, a farm worker in Idaho who described the plight of her family and community in the face of low pay, substandard living and working conditions, lack of health care and zero paid leave of any kind. Farm workers have almost always been excluded from policy considerations; it’s time for that to change. 

Interspersed with speeches and the moderation of Ray Jeffers, a Black farmer turned newly elected member of the North Carolina legislature, the rally was highlighted by a video link of Willie Nelson and an in-person performance from John Mellencamp. We then took to the streets and, with a police escort, marched the mile-plus to the capital, ending at the front steps of the Supreme Court.

Farm workers have almost always been excluded from policy considerations;
it’s time for that to change.

After training by NSAC on how to conduct our scheduled meetings with our congresspeople, we had the remainder of the evening to strategize and refine our message. While I was the only FACT representative from Oregon, I was able to meet up with two other Oregon farmers, Bashira Muhammad of Zoom Out! Mycology in Springfield and Willow from Valhalla Serenity Homestead near Klamath Falls. They were part of a small contingent from the Black farmers of Oregon (and Washington), but since they didn’t have a chance to get any meetings scheduled, I invited them to join me in my meetings in the offices of Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Earl Blumenauer.  

"Support farmers. Save farms, save communities, save families."

In each of the 30-minute meetings we introduced ourselves, reassuring them that we were actual farmers—they seemed to genuinely appreciate seeing actual constituents compared to the typical lobbyists they see day in and day out. We moved on to discuss the challenges farmers face from a changing climate, wildfires, competition from unsustainable industrial ag, and policies that leave out funding for smaller farms like ours.

They seemed especially concerned when I described how we had to give up selling raw milk at Terra Farma because drought, due in part to climate change, has caused the price we pay for hay to double in less than two years. Plus the fact that we had our liability insurance cancelled because we sold raw milk (which is completely legal for us to sell).

Then we moved on to our specific asks: The overarching priority from NSAC is the Agricultural Resilience Act, which focuses on farmer-led climate solutions, racial justice, and communities, not corporations. Two priorities from FACT were the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, which would provide funding to support pasture-based systems like those we use at our farm, and the Strengthening Local Processing Act, to address the critical need for animal processing for independent small farms.

I planted the seed for support for a crazy idea that I have:
that Oregon should have its own farm bill.

I also added some of my personal priorities to support the work I do at EMSWCD, like increased funding for easements to protect farmland and dollars to support more urban agriculture. Finally, I planted the seed for support for a crazy idea that I have: that Oregon should have its own farm bill, and the federal farm bill should have funding for any state that wants to create something that is more specific to that state’s needs.  

Meeting and networking with other concerned farmers.

Fortunately, my job in these meetings was easy, as we are incredibly lucky to have the delegation we do here in Oregon; all three of them “get it” and, in fact, they brought up questions about some of the above-mentioned priorities even before I did. I left each of the meetings feeling very positive, though tempering my expectations because I know the reality of federal policy is that change is often incremental and slow. Some of the things we are asking for might not see progress until the next farm bill or two to be fully implemented—but if we don’t ask, the answer will always be no.  

I closed each of the meetings with a sentiment I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately: Farming is a public service. But, unlike many other public servants who have job security, a middle-class paycheck, health care, paid vacation and paid sick leave; farmers have none of these things. Additionally, they are burdened with locating and maintaining land that is increasingly out of financial reach for most new farmers. So, even though we are an essential part of every human’s existence, we are burdened with all the risk of providing that sustenance.  

Please join me in the effort to not only help climate-friendly agriculture survive, but to thrive. Not everyone is able to go to DC or the state capital to meet with their elected officials, but emails and phone calls are effective. More importantly, though, supporting farms that are employing these practices can do more than just keep a local business afloat. Their success will inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and building this movement from the ground up will undoubtedly affect future policy.

UPDATE: Yesterday the president released his proposal for ag spending for fiscal year 24, and while it increases discretionary funding for the USDA and the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program mentioned above, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative that I wrote about in my story had its funding go from $14 million to zero. This underscores the need for lawmakers to hear from their constituents about the importance of this initiative and to push for a funding level of $50 million per year. Read the NSAC press release. 

All photos courtesy Michael Guebert.

Turnip Revelation: Discoveries Come Free with a CSA Subscription

Two Recipes That Got Me Further Down the Root Road.

Root vegetables make me uncomfortable. There. I said it.

As a writer who covers our local food system, the farmers, ranchers and fisherfolk who do the hard work of bringing food to our tables, not to mention the incredible bounty of vegetables, meats, fish and edible delights within that system, you'd think nothing would be able to stump me. Well, I'm here to tell you that many root vegetables have been in a Pandora's box that I'd just as soon have kept shut.

Turnips can be white, pinkish or purple-topped. All are delicious!

Not that I would put them on my "never put this in your mouth" list or that I find them, to put it in toddler terms, "yucky"—I've had plenty of stellar meals prepared by excellent cooks featuring everything from celery root to kohlrabi to turnips and their kin. It's just that I wasn't brought up eating or cooking with them in a thoroughly middle-class 1960s American home, with Campbell's soup, frozen (or worse, canned) vegetables and that housewife's dream, Hamburger Helper.

My mother, who worked full time and had three kids and a husband to feed, was a good cook short on time, so convenience foods, available and much-ballyhooed in her "ladies magazines" of the time, made sense in her hectic life. As for me, since starting Good Stuff NW, I've inched my way into the world of root vegetables, sizzling sweet hakurei turnips with their greens in the oven or roasting a melange of roots under a chicken.

Turnip stew with lamb.

But subscribing to a CSA the past couple of years put my root-phobic inclinations to the test, since turnips, celeriac, kohlrabi, rutabagas and beets are par for the course in fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest, challenging my "never toss perfectly good food in the compost" mantra. When I found our food bin half-full of turnips the other day, I had to cave and resort to combing my cookbook collection and consulting the oracle (i.e. the Goog) for ideas.

The following stew and soup would qualify as both belly-warming and delicious, and have taken me just a little further down that rooty road.

Quick and Easy Creamed Turnip Soup

This is a super simple, creamy, incredibly luscious soup for dinner that makes enough for four good-sized appetites (top photo). It also makes a fun appetizer (think gazpacho) served warm in small, clear glass cups. Adapted from Spruce Eats.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 medium to large turnips, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
8 c. chicken broth or vegetable broth, or a combination of half water and half broth
2 c. half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Turnip greens, or parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and leeks, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turnips and broth. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the turnips are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and, using an immersion blender, purée the soup until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. (If you use a regular blender, allow the soup to cool slightly and work in batches, covering the lid of the blender with a kitchen towel to prevent splatter burns.)

After puréeing, return the soup to low heat and add the cream, stirring to combiine, making sure the soup does not boil. (The more cream you add the thicker and more luxurious the soup becomes.) Add salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of cayenne or chopped turnip greens or parsley, if you like. Serve hot. 

Lamb and Turnip Stew

Adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine,

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
 and pepper
1 onion, halved lengthwise and again crosswise into eight pieces

6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

6 Tbsp. flour
1 c. dry white wine
 or rosé
4 c. chicken stock or broth
 of your choice
3 medium-sized turnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2" dice
2 medium carrots, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 c. half-and-half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped turnip leaves, parsley or mint for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook the lamb over medium heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large plate. Add the onions to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to the plate with the meat.  

Remove the pot from the heat and add enough oil or lard to make 6 tablespoons of fat. Whisk in the flour, then return the pot to the heat. Add the wine and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in 2 cups of water along with the stock and whisk until smooth, then add the lamb and onion mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour, adding more water or stock if there isn't enough liquid. (Note: Sopping the gravy with bread is critical!)

Add the turnips, carrots and potatoes to the pot and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream; season with salt and pepper and warm briefly without boiling. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish as desired. Serve with crusty bread.

You can find literally hundreds more recipes for root vegetables and other common CSA offerings at Cook With What You Have, a reference that many local CSA farms offer as a free resource to their subscribers. Have questions about what a CSA is? Get more information about CSAs, and get a list of area CSA farms and what they offer. Also, Portland author Diane Morgan's James Beard Award-winning book Roots is a comprehensive guide to more than 225 recipes for these often-underappreciated vegetables.

Guest Essay: What Do You Do with a Medlar?

I've been reading—and thoroughly enjoying—local writer and editor Jonathan Kauffman's occasional newsletter, A Place Is a Gift, for awhile now. It's about, as he puts it, "cooking the neighborhood (and giving it away)." But it's also about becoming intimately acquainted with, and becoming a part of, the place you live. As such, it's more than appropriate to share here.

The mystery of an unphotogenic, labor-intensive fruit.

This year, I planned to ignore medlars.

Two summers ago, I was having drinks with friends—one of those pandemic gatherings where everyone sat six feet apart and pretended we weren't freaked out—when Koto mentioned that she had a medlar tree in her backyard orchard.

Harvesting medlars (and quince).

I had never tasted a medlar before. I had never seen a medlar before. All I knew of medlars was a word in one of the choruses from Amahl and the Night Visitors, the Giancarlo Menotti opera I starred in as a boy soprano: “Olives and quinces, apples and raisins, nutmeg and myrtle, medlars and chestnuts. This is all we shepherds can offer you.”

I begged her to let me try a few fruits when they ripened, and that winter, Koto graciously remembered. She delivered several pounds of hard brown fruit to me with the instruction that I should let them blett, or soften, like persimmons. The ovoid fruits, with their gaping blossom ends, sat in my basement for a month while I looked up things to make with them. No one, it seemed, could share a recipe without describing medlars with a smirk. In Kate Lebo's marvelous lexicon, The Book of Difficult Fruit, for example, she describes a medlar as:

A shriveled, rose-hip-like bulb about the size of a fig, called in Shakespeare's time "open-arse" because its calyx looks (sort of) like the pucker of an anus. ... That medlars are not ripe until they rot—a process called bletting—contributes to their assness, I guess.

Medlars in situ.

After a month with no bletting to speak of, Koto told me that the December frosts had softened the remaining fruit on her medlar tree. This second batch of medlars were so squishy that, when I pressed a finger into them, a brown, grainy muck erupted.

Its sweetness was a subtle as its scent, and the seeds were too big to make the thought of eating a raw medlar appealing. So I followed a well-known food blogger's recipe for medlar jelly, mashing and cooking the fruits until they fell apart, then passing the pulp through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. It became clear why the blogger hadn't documented the process in photos. The assiest of fruit produces a scatological-looking pulp.

After I hung the pulp in a cheesecloth bag overnight, then collected the viscous, honey-like liquid that dripped out, I began to catch hold of the medlar's elusive aroma. The juice smelled as if someone had cooked apples and oats together with fresh sawdust. I wasn't sure I loved it, but I didn't mind it. I added the appropriate amounts of sugar, lemon, and tart green apple and cooked the jelly.

It refused to set.

Still from Country Life Vlog.

After two rounds of cooking, I shoved my jars of medlar syrup to the back of the fridge, and figured my curiosity was satisfied. This summer, though, I binge-watched YouTube videos of a cook in rural Azerbaijan [called Country Life Vlog]. Aziza, who layers printed fabrics like a Gen Z influencer, silently cooks massive amounts of food outdoors. (According to an English-language Azeri news site, the filmmaker is her son, a chef in his own right.) In one of the videos, Aziza and her husband build a brick fire pit in order to cook a vat of medlars down into a garlicky sauce, which they serve with beef ribs and hand-made noodles. (The video's long, so start watching at 11:30.)

I wanted to know how that tastes, I thought, then texted the video's URL to Koto. Come December, she texted me back: I don’t have time to process my medlars this year, but they're all bletting on the tree. Take them all.

It was an amazing gift, so of course I took her up on it. The fruit was so soft that if I jiggled a limb, medlars would fall off and hit the ground with a splat. It me took two afternoons to puree the 15 pounds of fruit I gleaned. The yield: two gallons of murky brown sludge.

In the process of cooking all that fruit, breathing in its steam, tasting little spoonfuls, the medlar burrowed into my head. The aroma remained subtle, but it permeated our house for a week, and I could pick it out from all the other smells floating around our house. I began to enjoy it.

It made me think of how my love for people and things—foods, music, cities—is often encased in my intimate knowledge of them. How familiarity is not the same as love, but it traces love's shape.

When people ask me whether I love it here in Portland, I can only say that I love my house, and my friends, and the landscape, and perhaps my neighborhood, which Christian and I have taken hundreds of walks around. In the late-2000s I lived in Seattle for three and a half years, exploring the area as a restaurant critic. By the time I moved away I could get from Federal Way to Kirkland and tell you six great places to eat in White Center. After the same amount of time in Portland—or as we like to say, eight months plus a pandemic—the city still feels like a preliminary sketch. A place that everyone else but me remembers. A community still locked behind its masks.

This winter, however, I'm finally driving around town without turning on Google Maps. Not just to regular destinations like the farmers' market or the barber. When I head out, I know that if I get lost, I can keep driving until something looks familiar—which is more and more of the city. It is a relief. A promise of a deeper kind of love.

As for the medlar purée, some is buried in the freezer, for the day when I feel ambitious enough to make beef ribs with medlar sauce. I attempted the jelly again, combining the strained juice with last year's syrup and a lot more pectin. I ended up with four jars whose contents jiggle when I shake them.

The leftover pulp became medlar cheese. I added heaps of sugar, plus vanilla, allspice, and cloves, then cooked the fruit puree until my spoon could barely move through the mass. According to the online recipes I followed, this was supposed to set up into a shiny, membrillo-like block, but mine didn't do that. So I canned small jars of what I’m calling spiced medlar butter, which I sometimes spread on toast. It is delicious. To be honest, so are most things flavored with sugar, vanilla, allspice, and cloves. Behind their easy charm, though, I can sense medlar's own true flavor. I plan to finish writing this sentence, walk to the refrigerator, and taste it again.

Spoonful by spoonful, I will figure out how to love this fruit.

Subscribe to A Place is a Gift. All photos courtesy Jonathan Kauffman.

Legislative Report: Food System Issues Front and Center

Oregon's 82nd Legislative Assembly convened on January 17, 2023, with a long roster of proposed legislation to work through during its 160-day session, many of those involving the food Oregonians will be putting on their tables in the future.

Three of these bills are of particular concern:

Raw Milk Sales, HB2616: Currently, Oregon has the most restrictive laws on raw milk sales of any of the Western states, including Washington, California, Idaho and Nevada. This bill would authorize sale of unpasteurized milk from small-scale farms through a delivery service or at farmers' markets or other farm-to-consumer sales locations if the milk is labeled as unpasteurized.

In a state that prides itself on having a national presence in the dairy industry, in reality our state has been losing small dairy farms by the dozens in the last few decades because of the pressure to “get big or get out.” Because of this pressure, created by artifcially low prices for factory-farmed milk and the high cost of processing in the centralized food system, many small farmers choose to produce raw milk for their immediate community.

Currently it is impossible to obtain a license to sell raw cow’s milk in Oregon. Because of the exclusion from the sanctioned licensing program—and pressure from industrial producers on insurance companies—raw cow milk producers, who are following the letter of the law with the license exemption, are being dropped from their farm insurance policies. The goal of this bill is to create more opportunity for small farmers to diversify their offerings, a pathway to licensing for farmers who want to grow their raw milk business, and to ensure that raw milk is safe and accessible to Oregonians. More information here.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to expand raw milk production in Oregon.

Farm Direct Enhancements Bill, SB507: This bill would make improvements and clarifications to Oregon's Farm Direct Marketing Law that was passed almost a decade ago.

At that time, farmers, academics and food system activists came together to pass a law, sometimes lovingly called “The Pickle Bill,” allowing farmers to bring certain low-risk, value-added products like jams and jellies, pickles, lacto-fermented vegetables, dried herbs, etc., to farmers' markets and their farm stands. It opened up opportunities for small farms to differentiate themselves at the market, reduce waste, and create shelf stable products they could use to stretch their income year round when the weather doesn’t cooperate. At the time, it was one of the most progressive cottage food laws in the country.

This bill would address:

  • Online Sales: Explicitly permit the online sale of products that fall under the Farm Direct Marketing Law.
  • Modernizing Distribution: Allow for the contracting of a third party entity for the facilitation of a sale, marketing and/or delivery of products from the farm to the consumer.
  • Additional Products: Expand products eligible for Farm Direct Exemption.
  • Clarify Ingredients: Define and clarify the non-farm-grown ingredients allowed for valued-added products.
  • Consignment: Expand consignment eligibility to certain value-added products.

More information here.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your legislator to support the Farm Direct Enhancements Bill.

Factory Farm Moratorium, HB 2667: This bill places a moratorium on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and State Department of Agriculture (ODA) on issuing or renewing licenses or permits to allow construction or operation of new industrial confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) or additions to existing facilities (also known as Tier 2 CAFO permits).

Oregon has fewer regulations around these facilities than California and Washington, and as a result the state is becoming a target for these types of industrial facilities—55 and counting. Placing a pause on issuing new permits will help Oregon prioritize the agricultural legacy we want for our state.

The factors that legislators and public officials must consider when licensing these facilities include:

  • Land Use
  • Pollution of Our Air, Water and Groundwater
  • Consolidation of Crucial Infrastructure
  • Water Use
  • Climate Change
  • Rural Economic Development

More information here.

TAKE ACTION: Send a letter to your legislator (template provided).

Thanks to Friends of Family Farmers, Food and Water Watch and Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition for much of the information in this report.

Providore Turns Seven and Throws a Storewide Citrus Fest!

Seven years ago I touted the opening of the food emporium Providore Fine Foods on NE Sandy Boulevard as "a whip-smart move" on a street formerly known more for its drug dealers, dive bars and ladies of the night than gourmet delights. Partnering with a roster of providers who have deep relationships with local farmers and suppliers, customers have found the kind of high quality, thoughtfully sourced products they can't find anywhere else.

To celebrate, Providore is pulling out all the stops this weekend, showcasing the sunniest of the season's produce, a Citrus Fest that includes:

  • A wide-ranging citrus tasting at Rubinette Produce with every kind of sunshine-y mandarin, tangerine, kumquat, pomelo, orange, lemon and lime they can get their hands on.
  • Divinely inspired kumquat tea cakes from Little T Baker.
  • Two x Sea will be sampling their McFarland Springs trout spread, and will have citrus-inflected mignonette available to accompany their impeccably fresh oysters, plus citrus-marinated fish to take home and enjoy.
  • Revel Meat Co. will be offering samples of their beef hot dogs and a selection of their house-made sausages, all made from meats sourced from local small farms.
  • Lovely lemon curd brûlée citrus tarts, along with Meyer lemon madeleines from Pastaworks, plus Meyer lemon sheet pasta. The salad case will be filled with citrus-inflected grain salads—the orange, tinned-octopus and chorizo salad looks crazy good—and Pastaworks head baker Kathy High is making her legendary birthday bread pudding, servings of which will be given away on Saturday. And don't forget to look for the free tasting of Hungarian wines in the Wine Room!
  • Hilary Horvath Flowers will have sunny, citrus-hued bunches of tulips.

All of the above can be found at Providore, 2340 NE Sandy Blvd., this Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

Providore Fine Foods is a steadfast sponsor of Good Stuff NW.

New Pan, Fave Recipe: Hippie Carrot Cake Rides Again

It was the mid-70s and carrot cake was all the rage. Dense, dark, full of healthful whole wheat and carrots, it used brown sugar instead of C&H and was the opposite of our mothers' fluffy, preservative-laden Betty Crocker mix cakes.

Carrot wedding cake? Mon dieu!

Made in college friends' apartments in their sketchy ovens, we barely waited for it to cool enough before we dove in. This cake would surely fuel the overthrow of the dominant paradigm.

Vive la révolution! (I was taking French at the time…)

When Dave and I requested carrot cake as our wedding cake of choice, the bakery was aghast. How can we stack it in tiers without having it crumble or topple over, they asked, suggesting instead a nice chocolate or banana cake if we really needed something "different."

But we wouldn't budge, and as a consequence of our insistence—or was it payback—they made a cake decorated to look like a lady's summer straw hat, wide brim, low crown, pale yellow, a frosting ribbon trailing over the side…you get the picture.

Carrot cake perfection.

But it was delicious, and while our guests were a bit puzzled, it hardly spoiled the day—after all, it was August and a summer straw would have been fitting. Any cases of the vapours were assuaged by the rebels' microbrew, Henry Weinhard's beer (a lager and their groundbreaking Dark Lager), since no Bud, Blitz, Schlitz or Miller would be allowed to darken our day. (I seem to remember my mother added a few bottles of champagne to make the relatives happy.)

So when Santa gifted me with a new bundt pan to take the place of the hideously inappropriate-for-the-purpose silicon version that almost immediately got slimy and cruddy and wouldn't clean properly, a carrot cake seemed like the obvious choice for its first dance.

Dave ground the flour from his stash of Camas Country Mill's Hard White Wheat (obtained from Adrian Hale's PDX Whole Grain Bakers), and the winter-sweetened carrots grown by Josh Volk for the Cully Neighborhood Farm's CSA made it a perfect marriage.

Welcome back, mon vieux!

Hippie Carrot Cake

2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 c. brown sugar
1 c. oil
4 eggs
3 c. grated carrots
Nuts, raisins, currants, etc. (optional)

Sift whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and combine thoroughly. Add oil and stir in, then add one egg at a time, beating it in before adding the next one. When it is completely combined, add carrots and any additional ingredients you choose—I added 1 c. of chopped walnuts—and combine.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan—a 9" by 12" baking pan or Pyrex dish works, too—and bake for 35-45 min, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If using a bundt pan, allow to cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack. Place your serving plate of choice on top, turn the plate and bundt pan upside down and remove the bundt pan. (Mine is a non-stick version, so this is easier.) If it doesn't plop out, give it a gentle bounce and it should come loose.

Watch one of the classic series of Henry Weinhard's ads by the incomparable Hal Riney.

Polenta is Back on the Table: Organic Floriani Flint Corn

When Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm sold their 140-acre farm to retire to upstate New York, Oregon lost not only two of the loveliest people I've had the pleasure to call friends, but also a crown jewel of Oregon's food system. Not just the outstanding fruit and vegetables that they'd shepherded through numerous seasons, adapting them to their nuanced tastes and our Northwest climate, but also meticulous plant breeders who introduced new varieties to market buyers, chefs and restaurant menues, setting a standard of quality that's as yet unmatched.

So good with roasted and braised vegetables and meats.

Along with their beans, berries and tomatoes, a particular focus of Anthony's was the corn that they produced—about which he wrote an entire book called Beautiful Corn—including white, flint and purple varieties they named Amish Butter, Roy's Calais Flint and Peace No War, respectively. The milled Roy's Calais Flint was a particular favorite of my family, made into cornbread, polenta and more. That meant that when the Boutards left, our source for local polenta was literally taken off the table.

In the months after my horded supply of Roy's had been plundered down to the last kernel, I searched local sources for new flint corn types. I even tried several varieties of Italian polenta available at stores, but nothing was satisfying my craving for that deeply corn-flavored, toothsome texture and flecked beauty.

Thanks, Camas Country Mill!

Then I discovered that Camas Country Mill, a local miller in Junction City, Oregon, that farmer Tom Hunton and his family opened in 2011—the first mill of its kind to operate in the Willamette Valley in nearly 80 years—carried a variety of organic ground flint corn called Floriani Red Flint, a dead ringer for the Roy's from Ayers Creek.

Grown by Fritz Durst, a farmer at Tule Farms in the Capay Valley of California, it's milled a bit coarser than the Roy's, so requires more liquid and a slightly longer cooking time (see recipe, below). You can purchase the Floriani Red Flint Cornmeal in three-pound bags direct from Camas Country Mill, or in the Portland metro area contact Adrian Hale of the PDX Whole Grain Bakers Guild. (Adrian's also a great source for small-batch grains and flours from regional mills. Highly recommended by Dave for home-millers!) Both sources also sell a Floriani corn flour, which is a finer grind and more suited to baking.

Floriani Red Flint Corn Polenta

3 c. water (or stock)
1 c. Floriani cornmeal
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil (optional)
1/2 c. parmesan, freshly grated (optional)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme (optional)
Salt to taste

In a medium-sized pot, bring water to boil. Whisk in cornmeal. Keep whisking until the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the polenta thickens and is tender to the bite but not mushy, add butter, cheese and thyme, if desired, plus salt to taste. If it seems too thick, stir in additional water a little at a time.

This polenta can also be made ahead and poured into a pie plate or baking dish and refrigerated until it sets, then cut into sections and fried or grilled.

Sign up for Adrian's PDX Whole Grain Bakers Guild newsletter to buy grains, flours and beans. Read Anthony Boutard's series of Farm Bulletins to learn about his methods and practices.

Holiday Breakfast Tradition: Strata!

It's a Sunday morning tradition around here. After we have both been humbled by the word puzzles on the New York Times website—me moreso than Dave—he starts puttering around the kitchen making breakfast. Sometimes it's as simple as his famous cheese omelets,  other times he's got some sourdough left over from bread baking to use for scones, biscuits or even waffles. I know that whatever it is, it's going to be delicious and I try to be appropriately appreciative.

My recipe box, broken cover and all.

But on holidays, I like to let him off the hook regarding breakfast. There are the tried-and-true, go-to selections—a hearty frittata, fluffy pancakes and real maple syrup from New England, a buttery, crumble-topped coffee cake—but this past Christmas Sunday I chose another standby, strata, which I hadn't made in a dog's age. I pulled out my trusty old recipe box and found the stained index card right there in the "Eggs and Cheese" section.

Dead easy, whether you call it a savory bread pudding or cheater's soufflé, strata consists of bread, eggs, milk and cheese, plus whatever other ingredients you want to add. Usually, in our case, this means mushrooms and bacon, but can include seasonal herbs, kale, tomatoes, asparagus, ham or other meat or seafood.

Call it savory bread pudding or cheater's soufflé, it's delicious!

But note that this cogitating on the possibilities needs to happen a day ahead, since strata really needs to be assembled the night before, with the bread spending all night absorbing the custardy goodness of the eggs and milk in order to achieve its utmost lusciousness. So the evening before I hauled out a half pound of the chanterelle mushrooms that I'd roasted and frozen a couple of weeks ago, plus some of Dave's fabulous bacon and the leeks that we'd received in our CSA share from Cully Neighborhood Farm.

The next morning, after pulling it out of the fridge and popping it in the oven, it bubbled away for ninety minutes while we sipped coffee and dug into our stockings. (And yes, we still do stockings around here…how else can you surprise someone with that probe thermomenter they've been drooling over online?) And I think Dave was pleased that Santa had thought to make breakfast for him for a change. 

Bacon, Cheese and Chanterelle Strata

3-4 c. bread, cut in 1/2" cubes (remove crusts only if you want)
1/2 lb. sharp cheddar or other cheese, grated
1/2 lb. bacon, cut in 1/4" strips
1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped (I used chanterelles, but any kind will do)
1 med. or 2 small leeks, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2" slices
3 eggs
2-2 1/2 c. milk (see note)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt

The day before baking, sauté bacon until fat begins to render. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté till mushrooms start to get limp, then add the leeks and sauté until tender. Remove from heat and cool. Beat eggs, milk, mustard and salt in a small mixing bowl. In a medium casserole dish (I used my 2 1/2-qt. Le Creuset casserole but it can be made in a 9" by 12" Pyrex baking dish), place half the bread cubes, topped with half the bacon mixture, half the cheese and drizzle half the melted butter over it. Repeat with another layer of the remaining bread cubes, meat mixture, cheese and butter. Pour the egg mixture over the top. (Note: You can add a little more milk the next morning if it seems too dry, but go easy—the bread shouldn't be swimming in liquid.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight to soak.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 300°. Place the casserole in a larger pan with about 3/4" of hot water and place those in the oven. Bake for 90 minutes.