Sunday, July 05, 2015

Camp Stories: Camp Creek on Mt. Hood

Despite the fact that we'd heard nary a pop, whistle or boom in the days leading up to the Fourth of July this year—a friend admitted fantasizing that maybe, just maybe, the citizens of our fair city had finally awakened to the ridiculousness of turning their neighborhoods into reenactments of war movies—we were still bound and determined to head into the woods in case my friend's fantasy of a saner Fourth might not be forthcoming.

Assessing the campsite.

Most of the campgrounds that take reservations had been snatched up months before, and our traditional campground, Paradise Creek on the flanks of Mt. Adams, no longer allowed advance reservations on its preferred creekside sites. Plus we were hoping to stay a little closer to home this year, the better to avoid taking the dogs on a multi-hour trip in a hot car.

Morning wake-up.

We'd heard that the small Green Canyon campground on Mt. Hood, off a forest road outside of Rhododendron, might be worth scoping out, since all 15 sites are available on a first come, first serve basis. But Dave wanted to check out Camp Creek, too, since it was close to a cabin (Showers! Toilets!) that friends were staying at for the weekend. I was less than excited about its location, just off the very busy Mt. Hood Highway between Rhododendron and Government Camp. I could imagine the roar of 18-wheelers and the shrieking of air brakes casting a pall over our woodsy weekend.

Looking up.

But pulling off the highway we found ourselves immersed in the buffering company of tall old-growth Douglas firs and the babbling of Camp Creek itself, which provided a comforting screen of white noise that covered any disturbing rumbling that might leak through. We scooted into the last available non-reservable site on the far end of the camp loop, and Dave used his "Old Man pass"—a Senior Pass to National Parks and recreation areas—to get half off the nightly rate. Deal!

Cocktail hour.

After pumping up the air mattress and setting up the camp kitchen, it was time for cocktails by the fire followed by a walk down to the creek before dinner. I'd heard that the flow of the nearby Zigzag River was much reduced by the lack of snow over the winter, not to mention the dry spring weather, so I was a little surprised to find Camp Creek noisily pouring down from wherever its source was. Fallen trees created dams and waist-high holes, though wading up to our ankles was about as far as we and the dogs got in the icy creek.

Steaks on the fire.

A quiet night's sleep, coffee and breakfast next to the fire, and we were off to explore the Still Creek Trail, a fairly easy one-and-a-half-mile forested hike that starts with a walk over a beautiful wooden bridge at one end of the campground. With a couple of slight elevation gains as it climbs a hill, if you're there at the right time you might see salmonberries, occasional red huckleberries and little chipmunks skittering across your path.

Another hike is along the Pioneer Bridle Trail, a major mountain bike trail that parallels Hwy. 26 and which you can access at the entrance to the campground. Another option is taking the Still Creek Trail from the campground, turning left at the first roadway, then left again onto the Bridle Trail to go back to the campground. Of course you could decide to trek down the Bridle Trail to Tollgate Campground (a couple of miles one way) or a much more challenging hike as far as Government Camp, about seven miles on a rougher trail with a considerable elevation gain.

Strenuous activities aside, it's also completely pleasant to sit and read a book or nap at your campsite or by the stream. Your choice!

Find great suggestions for area campgrounds and camp cooking in the Camp Stories series.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Eggplant: When Burning Your Food is Good

I prefer to call it aubergine, the lilting name that the French use for this member of the nightshade family, but say that to an employee at Whole Foods and you'll have a choice of the only-reserved-for-certain-customers official eye roll or the more traditional shoulder shrug. Botanically classified as a berry, it's a summer favorite of contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food, who believes everything tastes better cooked on his grill.

Burned Eggplant Salad

I'm cooking outside as much as possible during this hot weather, and I try to make sure I have an eggplant on hand when I light the grill. While you can roast eggplant in the oven, you don't get the smoky flavor you get when you burn them over fire. And I rarely build a fire just for burning eggplant; I'm usually cooking something else but want to take advantage of the hot coals.

The technique is simple. Put the whole eggplant over the fire, turn it over periodically and cook it until the skin is charred all over and the eggplant has collapsed. The time will vary depending on the heat of your fire, but it's difficult to overcook (unless you literally burn it up). I've left eggplant on the grill overnight to cook slowly over the dying embers.

When the eggplant is ready, let it cool enough to handle, then cut it lengthwise and remove the skin. Sometimes it just peels off, but you may need to use a spoon or knife to separate the skin from the cooked interior.The cooked eggplant makes great baba ghanoush, but I like to make a modified version of the eggplant salad found throughout the middle east.

Chop the cooked eggplant coarsely, then combine it with chopped tomato, onion (sweet onion if you can find one), cucumber (thin-skinned cukes are best), mint, parsley, red wine vinegar (or lemon juice) and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nocino: Italian Green Walnut Liqueur

One year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. That's how long it takes till you know if you've succeeded or failed miserably. If you've created something worth doing again or if maybe it needs a little tweaking next time.

Too strong? Too sweet? Too bitter? Still takes about a year to really know.

Longer than a pregnancy, with no ultrasounds, blood tests or even a heartbeat to listen to. Sure you can taste it as you go along, which can give you a vague idea of its eventual character, but really, as with that pregnancy, you'll just have to wait and see how it turns out. In this case, if the combination of raw green walnuts, grain alcohol and simple syrup makes itself into something worth pouring for friends after a long, happy dinner.

My first batch, made last year from walnuts donated from the prodigious production of my neighbor Jim Dixon's tree, got off to a promising start on our back patio, over a period of several months turning from bright green to yellow to the color of your car's oil when it needs changing. Once the solids have been strained off and the simple syrup is added, it's like tasting a soup before the ingredients have had a chance to cook together. Each ingredient was distinct and identifiable: lots of astringent alcohol, the vegetal taste of the walnuts, then the sweetness of the sugar.

After a year, though, the flavors began to blend into a cohesive profile. At this point, last year's batch has subtle notes of chocolate and coffee, as well as vanilla and a hint of citrus. I know Jim has nocinos dating back several years, each remarkably unique and getting more complex as the years go by.

This year I got more green walnuts from Jim, adding in some I picked—with permission—from another neighbor's tree, then threw in a few leaves per Mr. Dixon's method (below). Back out onto the patio they went to sit through the summer and fall until November when I'll decant them, add the sugar and wait to find out what kind of character I'll meet next year.

Jim Dixon's Nocino

1 gallon-size glass jar*
30-40 green walnuts
1 gallon ‎180 proof grain alcohol, known as Everclear (in Oregon you can also get a brand called Clear Spring at select OLCC stores)
Walnut leaves, optional
Simple syrup (3 parts sugar to 4 parts water mixture)

Halve walnuts and fill jar, adding a few leaves at the end if desired. Fill jar with alcohol and secure lid. Place outdoors. Within a few days it will look like used motor oil. Wait at least two months—I tend to wait four to six months—then strain out nuts and leaves. Next, Jim says, "I'd recommend diluting the walnut-flavored alcohol with an equal amount of syrup, which gives you 90 proof nocino, then trying it to see if you like it 'hot.' If not, you can add more plain water and/or syrup to dilute it down. Around 80 proof (40% alcohol) is what I like, which is 2 parts alcohol to 3 parts syrup/water." Great as is as a digestif or over ice cream for dessert.

* I double this recipe, resulting in a little less than two gallons of finished liqueur.

Read my post on picking walnuts with Jim and Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana, titled "Yes to Nocino!", and the story of my first attempt last year, "Waiting's the Hard Part."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Garden 2015: Things Are Bustin' Out All Over!

Was it just 10 days ago that I posted a photo of my baby greens? Yikes!

With the unseasonably sunny and warm-to-hot temperatures, the garden has been going gangbusters. I've made two dinner salads with just the thinnings from the lettuces, the carrots are looking like they'll be ready in a couple of weeks (my 5-year-old nephew will be thrilled) and the tomatoes are growing like, well, like the weeds that also seem to thrive in these temperatures.

I'm not optimistic that the remaining greens will survive the predicted steady onslaught of temps in the mid-90s that are coming for the next couple of weeks, but I'll try to preempt bolting by picking as much as I can. In the meantime, happy summer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Garden Tours: A Perfect Excuse to Snoop!

I admit it. I'm a nosey parker at heart. There's nothing better I like than having a chance to get on the other side of the fences that keep me from seeing people's back yards and gardens. The best way to do that and not get arrested for trespassing is to go on a garden tour, and prime time for doing that in the Northwest is right now.

These events are supposed to be in the service of gathering ideas for one's own meager plot, but really a part of the thrill for me is having the chance to stroll through what only friends and family normally get to see.

Snoopy, as my father would have said, is my middle name.

The gardeners themselves are often in attendance at these tours, so you might get a chance to chat with them if you so choose. As an example, one garden owner last weekend admitted to planting bamboo in a corner of his garden as a screen between him and a neighbor he's had issues with, knowing that the plant might just send runners under the fence, a little-known-but-used-more-often-than-you-might-think technique I like to call "Passive-Aggressive Gardening."

One of the best ways to take advantage of these tours is to join the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, which, for only $35 per year, offers its members self-guided tours of a rich and diverse array of gardens from April through October. Stretching from the coast to Bend and from the south Willamette Valley all the way north to Seattle, the featured gardens can be everything from a shade garden on a city lot in Portland, to a more rural but still gorgeous flower, fruit and vegetable extravaganza on 2 acres, to a historic garden designed by a major landscape architect. The society also offers workshops, lectures, programs, discounts at local nurseries and reduced prices on garden books.

Several neighborhoods offer garden tours, including Sellwood and Foster-Powell, and there's even a bike tour of community gardens in Northeast Portland. A national organization, the Garden Conservancy, offers tours in the region, and searching for "Portland Garden Tours" yielded several resources. So get out there and rubberneck to your heart's content!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Your Food, Your Legislature: Hanging in the Balance

The Golden Boy atop the Capitol dome in Salem is feeling the heat building up under his feet. With only a couple of weeks left in the 2015 Oregon legislative session, the action is getting intense, with last-minute lobbying and buttonholing the order of the day. Several bills that will affect the food you put on your tables need action, so take a look at the short list below and let your legislators know what you think about these issues.

The numbered title of each bill (in bold) is linked to an overview on the state website.

The Battles We've Won

House Bill (HB) 3239: "Aggie bonds," legislation that will expand loans to beginning farmers, was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in late May. Look for it to spur new farmers to enter the market. With the average age of an Oregon farmer at nearly 60 years old, this is a very welcome, and much needed, development.

Senate Bill (SB) 341: This bill protects agritourism providers, such as farmers who have farm stay programs, host farm tours (left) or have on-farm stores, from legal liability when they invite members of the public onto their property. It passed the House last week and will be signed into law any day.

SB 320: When a bill has 27 sponsors out of 30 members, you know it has a good chance of passing. This bill, allowing home cooks to produce limited amounts of baked goods and confectionary items for sale to the public without being regulated by State Department of Agriculture (ODA), was signed into law by the governor in mid-June.

These Bills Still Need Your Help

SB 920: This bill to limit the use of human antibiotics on otherwise healthy animals—a practice that factory farms (right) use to promote faster growth and keep animals alive in unsanitary, stressful and crowded conditions—is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee. This is a critical issue for public health, since abuse of these drugs by the livestock industry has created antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases that no longer respond to treatment with most antibiotics (see my post The Personal Gets Political). Click here to send an e-mail to your legislator.

HB 3554: This bill would help protect farmers whose crops are at risk of contamination from genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops by allowing the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to establish "control areas" to prevent cross-pollination from genetically engineered (GE) crops. This bill is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee because of lobbying by large out-of-state corporations and needs your support to make it into law before time runs out. Let your legislator know the integrity of our food system is important to you by clicking here.

HB 2723: Would provide a tax incentive for property owners to allow small scale urban agriculture for a period of five years on unused plots of land. It got a cool reception in the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee last week and may die if it isn't voted on soon. Let your legislators know that you think this incentive is a good way to incorporate more small-scale agriculture into our food system.

Read the other posts in this series, Opening SalvosThe Good, The Bad and The UglyThe Personal Gets Political and The Fight Takes Shape.

Thanks to Ivan Maluski at Friends of Family Farmers for his help with the information on these bills.

Pets and the Fourth of July

Our solution to the July Fourth maelstrom that turns our neighborhood into a set for a war movie has been to go camping in an area that doesn't allow fireworks. If that's not an option for you, my friend Christine Mallar, who co-owns Green Dog Pet Supply with her husband, Mike, just sent out a few suggestions for pet owners on how to help your pets through the fireworks season. Read her full post here.

Just a reminder: now's the time to start thinking about how you'll manage the fireworks. Here are a few tips and products that might help:
  • If you have a new dog, please don't take them with you to a fireworks display. The crowds and the very big noise and smells of the explosives can be very overwhelming to a dog, and could create a fear of fireworks where they might not have had one before.
  • As people generally start setting off a few fireworks in the days leading up to July 4th, you can use these intermittent pops and bangs as opportunities. Keep some high value treats nearby and when you hear a pop, act like that's a really great opportunity for your dog for fun and treats! If nothing else, at least don't act like you're worried that they'll be frightened by the noises, or they might pick up on that and think they should be frightened, too. It's best to either ignore the noise or act like you think it's fun and treat-worthy.
  • Thundershirts can be a very useful tool. These snug wraps can really help to calm and reassure dogs in stressful situations. It's a good idea to pick one up early and put it on at times when nothing bad is happening, so they don't learn to think something scary is about to start. (Dogs are pretty good at noticing patterns.) These don't work for every dog, but they can be amazingly helpful for some dogs. There are also a variety of calming treats that can be very helpful. Note: do not use Acepromazine on July 4th as it can increase noise sensitivity.
  • On July 4th day, make sure to get all of your pets lots of exercise. Getting them tired will help them not to be so amped up over noises. Burn off that nervous energy! Keep them inside when there are fireworks going off—don't leave them outside, since they can panic and run off or be injured by people playing with fireworks. Offer dogs something new and exciting to chew on that night, since chewing often helps dogs deal with stress. Turning on some white noise or music, or even the clothes dryer or a noisy dishwasher can be helpful to drown out the fireworks noise.
  • Are your ID tags current? Make sure that every pet, perhaps even your indoor cats, are wearing their tags. Fearful animals can often bolt for the door, and many pets are lost every year. There's still plenty of time to order a fresh ID tag.
Here's hoping everyone in your family has a safe and calm holiday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Celebrate Pollinators?

Oranges. Vegetables. Flowers. Nuts. None of these everyday items we take for granted would exist without the pollinators that make it possible for these plants to reproduce.

A bumblebee collecting pollen.

To put it in perspective, it's been estimated that pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we humans eat. This week, June 15 through 21, is National Pollinator Week, a few days to appreciate these creatures and the huge part they play not only in our survival, but that of the planet. Responsible for the reproduction of 85% of the flowering plants around the world, they're critical for pollinating the plants that become food or habitat for other species. In addition, they themselves are a source of food for many birds and other wildlife.

Just who are these guys that we barely notice? Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, some bats, some beetles, flies and wasps. Here are some simple steps that you can take to show your appreciation:
  • Plant native milkweed to help create monarch butterfly habitat.
  • Buy organic products whenever possible and talk with farmers at the farmers' market about what they do to create pesticide-free, flower-rich habitat on their farms.
  • When buying nursery plants for your garden, look for labels that say they haven't been treated with bee-killing pesticides like neonicotinoids.
For more information on pollinators, check out the Xerces Society, an organization dedicated to researching and the protecting pollinators and other invertebrates. Read more about the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Garden Reborn

We took a vacation from gardening last year, with the excuse that we were letting the beds "go fallow." It might well have experienced another fallow year, but I felt I needed to at least plant a few carrots for my 5-year-old nephew to pull out of the ground. So when I took him to buy seeds at my neighborhood garden store there were all those pretty packages of lettuces and greens, and some chervil starts and, oh yeah, I meant to plant some chives, too. Then Dave started pining for some tomatoes…

A very happy Sungold cherry tomato plant.

Long story short, we're back in business. The two raised beds are full, the tarragon hedge came back with a vengeance and the tomatoes are going gangbusters with the hot sunny days of the last couple of weeks. Now what to plant when those greens start to bolt in the heat? Hmmmm…

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Tropical Temperatures Call for Tropical Cocktails

If you're a newcomer to our fair city, you may not even have been aware that it was happening, but if you needed any more proof that climate change is real, you had only to look up at the sky during Portland's annual paen to the be-thorned flower that gives this place its nickname, The City of Roses. You could look up because there wasn't anything falling out of the sky that would cause your eyes to blink and your head to get soaked.

Remove pith from lime, then slash.

There wasn't even a reason to wear a coat because the temperature was hovering in the 80s and the sky was the crystalline blue of some tropical lagoon. The roses themselves, which started blooming almost a month ago and which normally would be sodden masses from the drenching rain that falls from the sky in torrential sheets during the Rose Festival, were blooming in profusion on even the most hellish of hell strips.

That and the lack of snow pack in the mountains is enough to make native Oregonians more than a little nervous.

Put lime in glass and add superfine sugar.

But we're a plucky lot here, so when the sun shines and the mercury creeps up into the high double digits, we take a cue from the parts of the world where this kind of weather is de rigeur. And since this week is looking to be quite tropical, we'll be mixing up just the right blend of ice and lime and a splash of alcohol.


No, in this instance I'm not talking about a margarita or a gin and tonic or even a mojito—not, as Mr. Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with those. We're currently enamored of the national beverage of Brazil, the caipirinha (pron. kye-peer-EEN-yah). Made with cachaça (pron. kuh-CHAH-suh), the slightly sweet, sprightly liquor made from the fermented sugar cane juice that is then distilled, it is a drink at once light and refreshing.

This is especially called for on hot days when you don't want a cocktail hammer upside your head, but instead something that is cold and sippable and makes you feel like you're sitting under an umbrella on the beach. If anything can make hot temperatures, or climate change, more bearable, it's this.


1 heaping Tbsp. superfine (baker's) sugar
1/2 lime
2 oz. cachaca

Trim ends off lime so white rind is gone. Cut lengthwise and remove pith from center. Slice almost all the way through perpendicular to axis of lime, leaving rind side intact. Slice diagonally a couple of times, again, not slicing through. Cut in half, perpendicular to axis and put in glass flesh side up.

Put sugar over lime. Muddle gently, squeezing out all the juice you can. Put into shaker. Fill with ice. Add the cachaca. Shake. Pour with ice into tumbler.

Check out another perfect spritzy cocktail, ideal for summer, the Americano.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Anatomy of an Artichoke

In the most recent newsletter from the Beaverton Farmers' Market, market manager and gardener extraordinaire Ginger Rapport shared a comprehensive and useful guide to the history and culinary uses of that spiky-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle seasonal treat, the artichoke. They are well-adapted to our moderate climate in the Northwest, and they can be found in abundance at farmers' markets in the area.

We have often wondered what made someone look at an artichoke plant and decide to try to eat it. After all, they are fairly intimidating with their spiky leaves and scratchy choke. It must have been someone who was very hungry! Unlike a carrot, which is a fairly straight forward vegetable, an artichoke has secrets that you need to know in order to enjoy them.

History: Artichokes are members of the thistle group of the sunflower family. The edible portion is actually the plant’s flower bud. Artichokes date back to the time of the Greek philosopher and naturalist, Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.) who wrote of them being grown in Italy and Sicily. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered them a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. They also believed that artichokes were effective in securing the birth of boys. Cultivation of artichokes spread across the Mediterranean and French immigrants brought them to the United States in the 1800s. It was in the late 1800s that Spaniards brought them to California which today grows nearly 100% of all artichokes grown commercially in the U.S. Fortunately for us, Denoble Farms in Tillamook grows them and brings them to the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Basic Artichoke Preparation: Have a cut lemon handy because you will need to rub it on any recently exposed surface of the artichoke to keep it from darkening.

Start by pulling off any petals at the base of the artichoke which are small or discolored. Cut the stem close to the base. Cut off the top of the artichoke about a quarter of the way down. If the petals on the artichoke have thorns, use scissors to cut off the tips. Some people do this anyway because they like the look of it but it is not necessary. (Don’t forget to use your lemon on these raw areas.)

Squeeze the remainder of your lemon into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the prepared chokes and cover with a white dish towel to help keep them submerged. Depending upon the size of the artichoke, it will take anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes to cook. To test for doneness, pierce the stem end with a fork. When properly cooked, you should get a little resistance against the fork. If it pierces too easily you have probably cooked them a bit too long.  Remove from water and drain upside down in a colander. At this point they can be eaten immediately or refrigerated for later use.

Eating An Artichoke: Peel off a petal and notice the soft part at the base. This is the only part of the petal you will be eating until you get closer to the center where the petals become more tender. If you want to dip the bottom of the petal into a sauce or dressing, now is the time. Pull the petal through your teeth removing only the soft, pulpy part at the bottom. Work your way around the artichoke until all of the petals are removed. As you work your way towards the center, the texture of the petals change. You may or may not enjoy eating them at this point in which case you can just pull them off and discard them.

You will be left with the artichoke bottom, topped with the inedible choke. Using a tablespoon, scrape the fuzzy choke off of the bottom. It is very obvious where the choke stops and the bottom begins. It is the bottom of the artichoke that you want to eat. Typically it is served with melted butter, or some kind of dip or dressing. It can be eaten hot or cold, or cut up and added to other dishes such as salads, pastas and eggs. Artichokes have a bad reputation for being fattening because they are usually served with a mayonnaise based sauce or butter. A large artichoke is only about 25 calories so it is only as fattening as what you are serving with it!

Selecting an artichoke: Globe artichokes should be heavy for their size and have a tight leaf formation. Avoid artichokes which are wilting, drying or have mold. Both raw and cooked artichokes can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Photos from the Beaverton Farmers' Market.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Judge Upholds Jackson County Ban on GMO Crops

It started two years ago when farmers in Jackson County, a largely agricultural region in Southwestern Oregon, found out that for the past decade, genetically modified (GM or GMO) sugar beets had been grown for seed in the county. Moreover, the locations of the 40 fields were being kept secret by the growers. The problem for some local farmers was that since these sugar beets were being grown for seed, this meant that the beets were being allowed to flower and develop pollen.

The pollen from the sugar beets (left), which one EU study showed can be carried on the wind as far as five miles from the source, could also be picked up and carried by birds, insects, cars and trucks for much greater distances. The pollen from the sugar beets has the potential to cross-pollinate with any member of that family, including table beets. Contamination means that crops can't be sold by organic growers and, even for traditional (non-GMO) farmers, it makes their crops undesirable to a public increasingly opposed to buying what they consider tainted food.

This led to 150 Jackson County farmers, who felt their crops were endangered by contamination from genetically engineered (GE) crops, to initiate what became known as the Jackson County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119. The measure passed with the support of 66% of county voters despite almost $1 million spent to defeat it by agricultural companies that produce and promote the use of GE seed, including Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and other chemical corporations.

The measure was quickly subjected to a court challenge by two farmers in the county, backed by those same chemical corporations, who grew GE "Roundup Ready" alfalfa, citing Oregon's Right to Farm Act which "protects growers from court decisions based on customary noises, smells, dust, or other nuisances associated with farming. It also limits local governments, and special districts from administratively declaring certain farm and forest products to be nuisances or trespasses."

The suit, which sought to overturn the measure or award damages in the amount of $4.2 million, was dismissed on Friday, May 29, by federal magistrate judge Mark D. Clarke, who ruled that the Jackson County ban was allowed under the Right to Farm Act. According to Judge Clarke's opinion, the act was intended to "protect against damage to commercial agriculture products, and therefore it falls into the exception to the Right to Farm Act."

Furthermore, Judge Clarke wrote, "Farmers have always been able to bring claims against other farmers for practices that cause actionable damage to their commercial agriculture products. The [Jackson County] Ordinance, by contrast, is enacted pursuant to section 30.935 [of state law], and serves to prevent such damage before it happens."

Jackson County farmer Chris Hardy was quoted in a press release as saying,  "No farmer should ever have to tear up their crops like myself and others did for fear they had been contaminated by GMO pollen. Family farmers know well that GMO contamination could quickly destroy a family farm, but it was so encouraging to have a federal court support farmers’ right to defend ourselves against GMOs."

Get the full text of Judge Clarke's decision.

Sources for this story included the Center for Food Safety, Ballotpedia's explanation of the measure and an article on Alternet by Steven Rosenfeld. Photo at top from a video produced by Our Family Farms Coalition.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ryan Magarian: Portland Boy, Cocktail Powerhouse

When I was asked to write a profile of Ryan Magarian, PDX's "King of Co-"—co-founder of Aviation Gin, co-owner of Oven & Shaker, co-owner of the Pearl's new watering hole, Hamlet—for The Pearl magazine, I was a little nervous. I mean, he practically jumpstarted the new distillery explosion in Portland with Aviation gin, his witty, not to mention crave-worthy, cocktail menus are among the most highly regarded in the city, and partnering to start two hot downtown restaurant/bars, well, a resumé like that is a bit intimidating. I needn't have worried…direct and down-to-earth, he was as forthcoming about his challenges growing up as much as his recent successes, which is why I'm publishing this extended interview.

Ryan Magarian calls it “The Big Box of Awesome.” Co-owner of Oven & Shaker with six-time James Beard Award-nominated Chef Cathy Whims and ChefStable restaurateur Kurt Huffman, Magarian is referring to the area from Northwest Everett to Southwest Morrison between 10th and 13th avenues.

“You’ve got the tightest grouping of amazing, delicious concepts from bars to restaurants of anyplace on earth right now,” he said. “You’ve got Clyde Common, Pepe le Moko, Multnomah Whiskey Library, you’ve got Kask, Oven & Shaker, Teardrop. Six world-class places right here in a small [area]. These are bars people in other cities and other countries know about.”

Whims (left) and Magarian of Oven & Shaker.

And he should know. This local boy from Portland’s West Hills went to Sunset High School, got a degree in political science from the University of Oregon and then headed to Seattle where he was mentored by Chef Kathy Casey and cocktail historian Robert Hess, eventually becoming an internationally renowned spirits and bar program consultant.

Describing himself as an insecure kid, he said, “I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t popular, so my identity piece was being the guy who went to parties and got drunk. Drinking was something that became an identity for me early, but for the wrong reasons.”

He credits Hess as the person “who really helped me change my thought process from seeing being a bartender as a job about alcohol delivery and more as a job about creating an alcohol experience. That was a shifting point in my life.”

The Convertible at Hamlet.

With that new focus and a keen eye for what works in the spirits industry, Magarian was instrumental in the development of Aviation Gin, working with House Spirits distiller Christian Krogstad to develop its unique flavor profile. Working on this signature product, he realized the next step was to create a flagship for his work.

“I needed a place you could come find my culture, [a place that] was under my control,” he said. “I wanted to create a healthy drinking environment and that meant you needed to have a strong food element, which would mean having a strong chef partner.”

Magarian had been “kicking the tires” with Huffman about opening his own place, and it had occurred to him that pizza and cocktails would be a fun and unique combination, one he’d seen done successfully in Sydney, Australia. A fortuitous meeting with Whims where she mentioned opening a pizzeria drove them to create a business plan for what would become Oven & Shaker.

He dislikes the term “bar chef,” preferring instead to describe what he’s done at Oven & Shaker as “liquid cooking.”

“You take spirits and fresh, raw ingredients and, through a change in temperature and dilution, create an entirely new and hopefully delicious culinary experience,” he said.

Believing in a strong culture of precise execution, Magarian’s goal is to make his customer smile.

“I want you to look at it and smile at the recipe, whether it’s the name of the recipe or just what’s in it,” he said of drinks like his Pepper Smash, a surprising combination of fresh mint, anise-flavored aquavit, lime juice, maple syrup and the juice of a yellow bell pepper. “I want it to be fun, I want it to be uplifting. I want you to think that Ryan makes fun, delicious cocktails.”

It’s a formula he plans to repeat in his newest venture, another partnership with Whims and Huffman called Hamlet around the corner from Oven & Shaker. With a menu focused on cured meats from around the world with traditional ham-friendly foods like collard greens, bocadillos, biscuits and pimento cheese, Magarian’s still-in-development bar program will introduce Portland to cocktails based on whiskey and fortified wines like sherry, madeira and port.

He feels that his partnership with a James Beard Award-level chef like Whims is yet another ground-breaking step in Portland’s food scene.

“It’s a quantum leap forward for the bar community that chefs will take someone like me to do this with,” he said. “I hope that it’s a template that will catch on in the industry, that more bartenders will partner with great chefs, not just as a consultant or a head bartender, but [in an] authentic partnership. Because if that happens, it’s going to create much more viability for this as a profession, bringing far more intelligent and passionate people into it.”

Read the edited version in The Pearl magazine. Photos of Magarian (top) from Oven & Shaker; Magarian and Whims by Amy Oulette for The Pearl magazine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dinner Desperation Turns into Dinner Delight

In a rare occurence, I knew what we were going to have for dinner. I was going to make one of our go-to favorite dinners, pasta alla carbonara, with some of Dave's freshly made bacon. It's simple matter of boiling water (duh!) frying bacon, stirring up some eggs and a little parmesan, then mixing it all together with whatever pasta was on hand.

And that's where dinner took a sudden left-hand turn.

There was no pasta. I looked around for someone, or something, to blame. Had our son sneaked in a midnight snack with the last box of penne? Had one of the dogs dragged off a package and buried it under the couch cushions? Maybe the cat…but then I remembered I'd made a mental note to write "pasta" on the grocery list but was momentarily, and apparently permanently, distracted by who-knows-what (A glass of wine? A clump of dog hair? A shiny object?) on my way to write it down.

A quick trip to the store crossed my mind, but the grumbling of the family's stomachs made it clear that sooner was going to be preferable to later. So I punted. I turned off the pot of pasta water, grabbed half an onion, chopped it quickly then did a speedy sauté in a sauce pan, added rice, then started ladeling in stock until the rice was just past crunchy.

The idea was to roughly replicate a dish we used to make with rice that called for cooking the rice with onion and stock, then stirring in eggs when the rice was nearly cooked to make a soft, fluffy mass reminiscent of cheesy grits or risotto or…well, dinner.

After stirring in the garlic and bacon, adding the eggs and stirring some more, what came out might not have been our beloved carbonara, but something different and actually worth playing around with some more. Maybe some spring peas, or blanched asparagus pieces? A sprinkling of garden herbs? I'll keep you posted.

Risotto alla Carbonara

1/2 lb. bacon, sliced in 1/4" strips
1 Tbsp. garlic
1/4 c. white wine or dry vermouth
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. parmesan, finely grated, plus more for sprinkling at the table
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 Tbsp. olive oil, or a combination of butter and oil
2 c. arborio or other short-grained white rice
5 c. chicken stock

Fry bacon strips in frying pan until fat is rendered but the bacon is still tender. Add garlic and wine and bring to a brief boil. Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs, egg whites and parmesan. Set aside.

In large saucepan melt oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté till it is translucent. Add rice and sauté briefly, 1-2 min. Add stock one ladel-full at a time, stirring regularly, until rice is al dente, just past the crunchy stage. Remove from heat and add bacon mixture, stirring thoroughly, then the egg mixture. Adjust salt to taste and serve.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Pollinator Garden: A Mother & Son Perspective

In honor of Mother's Day, which was marked earlier this month, the Xerces Society published this perspective on pollinator gardening. Alice Vaughan wrote a lovely narrative of her bee garden on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Alice's son, Mace, who co-directs the Xerces pollinator program and is a contributor to Good Stuff NW, added his memories of sharing in the garden.

Alice's View of Her Garden

I have always enjoyed gardening. I love being among the plants and the bees that come to visit them. A few years ago I saw that Xerces was offering plants for sale that attracted bees. I was very excited. We had a bit of land along our driveway on which orange daylilies and ivy fought for dominance; a rather boring area, I had always thought. So, as soon as I heard of the Xerces offer, I knew I had to clear that area and plant a bee garden.

In the years since, the garden has thrived. I have expanded it with the help of our son, Mace, adding not only more plants that attract bees, but some of my personal favorites, as well. (Who says all of the plants in a bee garden have to attract bees?)

This garden is a joy to me. I stand in it in the spring and summer, close my eyes, and the world around me hums and vibrates with the bees, large and small. They are amazing to watch going about their work every day, or curled up to rest occasionally. Each time I drive in, I pause and roll down the window just to say hello and listen in appreciation of their lives in our world.

Mace's View of the Garden

The bee garden my mom describes is a place—almost a sanctuary—that connects us across a continent. Spring, summer and fall, I love hearing stories about new bees or new plants in the garden—on the last call, I learned that the milkweed was already 4 inches high! My dad makes sure to send photos, always with the date and time attached. And, when I visit, I enjoy adding plants or pulling weeds under the direction of my mom, or just watching the bees and sharing their hidden stories with my family.

This garden connects us. This is not unusual: gardens bring together families, neighbors, communities, nature. The garden is a way to share work and place, whether it is families working in the backyard to raise a small crop, community gardens that bring a neighborhood together, or a wildlife habitat that attracts bees, butterflies, and birds closer to home.

We are a private family, and I worried that this peek at a gift that I share with my family would somehow violate a trust. As I've put these words down, however, I think that this glimpse into our lives is okay. I'm struck by how lucky I am to share this experience with my mom, and I hope it helps inspire you to create a garden for pollinators and share it with the people you love.

Photos by Mace Vaughan.

Summer Fun: Sunday Parkways, Cycle Rides and Express Walks

One of the things that makes this city such a great place to live is the enthusiasm people bring to their neighborhoods, and Portland Sunday Parkways has been instrumental in getting people out and exploring. By closing a few neighborhood streets and encouraging neighborhood organizations and businesses to join in, Portlanders flood the streets on their bikes and on foot for a few hours of non-automotive community togetherness.

This year the Parkways program is joined by Portland SmartTrips, a series of cycle rides, cycle classes and walks to encourage all of us to explore of alternative transportation choices—and, by the way, have fun in the process.

The best part? All rides are free. Here's the upcoming schedule:

Portland Sunday Parkways
  • Sun., June 21: North Portland along Peninsula, Arbor Lodge, Kenton, Columbia Annex and McCoy Parks
  • Sun., July 26: Northeast Portland along Woodlawn, Alberta and Fernhill Parks
  • Sun., Aug. 23: Southeast Portland along Laurelhurst, Colonel Summers and Ivon Parks.
  • Sun. Sept. 27: Tilikum Crossing/Sellwood along the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge, Westmoreland, Sellwood and Brooklyn School Parks.
Portland by Cycle Rides
  • Wed., June 10: Waterways Real & Metaphoric, aka Pedalpalooza celebrates the city's rivers through the work of artists and engineers.
  • Wed., June 17: The Wonderful World of Bike Non-Profits shows off our vibrant bike community.
  • Tues., July 7 & Wed., July 8: Sweet Summer Cycle visits Southeast Portland sweet shops.
  • Tues., July 14: Pretty Mellow Little Ride (PMLR) East and the 19th Neighborhood Greenway to Sellwood via new bikeways.
  • Wed., July15: NoPo Greenway Tour will visit several neighborhood Greenways and share some history.
  • Tues., July 21: PMLR West shows off new bikeways downtown.
  • Wed., July 22: 50s Bikeway Northeast will tour two major north-south routes.
  • Tues., July 28: Fly the 130s explores a new neighborhood greenway in East Portland.
  • Wed., July 29: SW Multnomah and More tries out a new cycle track and some hills.
  • Tues., Aug. 4: The Spirit of '77 blazes a trail to a new park via greenways in Roseway, Cully and Rose City Park.
  • Wed., Aug. 5: 50s Bikeway Southeast will tour two major north-south routes.
  • Tues., Aug. 11: The Dream of the 80s tours two north-south dow-traffic routes.
  • Wed., Aug. 12: St. Johns Park to Park uses low-stress routes to tour the area's parks.
  • Tues., Aug. 18: Butte of a Ride Up Council Crest takes a steep but slow climb to the spectacular view at the top of this landmark.
  • Wed., Aug. 19: Let's Bike to IKEA will find a way to the big store, meatballs optional.
  • Tues., Aug. 25: 150s or Bust explores a possible route for a new bikeway in East Portland.
  • Wed., Aug. 26: Butte of a Ride up Rocky Butte takes a steep but slow climb to the spectacular view at the top of this landmark.
  • Sat., Sept. 26: Autumn Adventure is a longer ride heading south via new bikepaths and greenways.
  • Sat., Oct. 10: Coffee and Donuts Ride is self-explanatory…bring a cup and cash for snacks!
  • Sat., Oct. 24: Art Along I-205 reveals the innovative art along the Green Line.
  • Sat., Nov. 7: Tilikum to Terwilliger Tour is a challenging uphill ride along this gorgeous route.
  • Sat., Nov. 21: Stormwater Cycling tours innovative street designs that protect our watershed.
Ten Toe Express Walks
  • Thurs., June 4: Westmoreland Park to Crystal Springs and Reed Canyon tours the rhododendron gardens and salmon habitat restoration.
  • Sat., June 13: Historic Piedmont and Woodlawn explores the history and sights of these neighborhoods.
  • Thurs., June 18: Ped Palooza Cat Walk is a cat-themed walk with prizes for best interpretation.
  • Sat., June 27: Overlook, Mississippi, Williams Loop tours new parks, developments and other projects.
  • Thurs., July 9: Gateway Plaza to Gateway Green tours the historic little city of Maywood.
  • Sat., July 18: Hillsdale to the River hikes a challenging route through George Himes and Willamette Parks.
  • Thurs., July 23: Slabtown with author Laura Foster highlights local history and showcases its renaissance.
  • Sat., Aug. 1: Westmoreland Park to Crystal Springs and Reed Canyon tours the rhododendron gardens and salmon habitat restoration.
  • Thurs., Aug. 6: Overlook, Mississippi, Williams Loop tours new parks, developments and other projects.
  • Sat., Aug. 15: Historic Brooklyn and Rail Yards explores pedestrian improvements and public art in this historic neighborhood.
  • Thurs., Aug. 20: Hillsdale to the River hikes a challenging route through George Himes and Willamette Parks.
  • Sat., Aug. 29: Gateway Plaza to Gateway Green tours the historic little city of Maywood.
  • Thurs., Sept. 10: Historic Brooklyn and Rail Yards explores pedestrian improvements and public art in this historic neighborhood.
  • Sat., Sept. 19: Tilikum Crossing Loop is a walk over the newly-opened bridge to the South Waterfront.
Check out the Portland By Cycle Classes and learn how to maintain and enjoy more time on your bike. Preregistration is required.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Report Those Swarms!

Did you know that Portland has a bee swarm hotline? Neither did I!

Portland Urban Beekeepers is an organization that "provides community, advocacy and education for those interested in raising honey bees and supporting their presence in the environment." They've established a hotline for people who run across bee swarms to report its location and have experienced beekeepers come and collect it. The swarms are then donated to beekeepers who are looking to start or add to their existing hives.

If you want to report a swarm, the hotline number is 503-444-8446 or you can report it online (the online form is a national organization, so you can report a swarm anywhere). If you're interested in getting a swarm for your hive or learning how to collect them, sign up at the website. The beekeepers also have monthly meetings that are held the first Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Check their calendar for the next meeting date.

Rhubarb Crisp: A Blast from the Past

"Planning, preparing and serving meals is an art which develops through inspiration and thought. It may look difficult to the beginner, but like driving a car, swimming or anything we learn to do without thought or conscious effort, it is a skill which grows easier with the doing."

Perky, positive phrases like these, along with recipes for "Wheaties Ting-a-Lings," "Hollywood Dunk" and "Veal Supreme"—described as "popular at Sibley Tea House, near the home of an early Minnesota governor"—littered the pages of my mother's 1955 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book.

Meant to bolster the confidence of a new generation of middle-class housewives like my mother, saddled with preparing three meals a day for a growing family and a husband who spent his days at the office and came home expecting dinner on the table, Betty was always there with her reassuring, confident wisdom.

"Good eating brings happiness two ways. First, there is the joy and satisfaction of eating delicious, well-prepared food. Then there's the buoyant health, vitality and joy of living that comes from a wise choice of foods. Both are important to good nutrition."

Of course, we now know that Betty was an invention of one of the six milling companies that became General Mills in 1928, created for the purpose of responding to recipe requests from customers. The company decided that having a woman's name to sign the return letters would be more personal, and so combined the last name of a retired company executive with the first name "Betty," which they felt was "warm and friendly."

I'm not sure my mother bought the whole ad-speak tone of the cookbook, but both it and her mother's 1944 copy of The Joy of Cooking—which was written by an actual person, Irma Rombauer—were her kitchen workhorses.

One of my mother's favorite "Betty" recipes was for apple crisp, though rather than the granola-esque crumble topping, it had a crunchy sugar topping that contrasted so satisfyingly with the soft, warm fruit under it. I've used it for many different kinds of fruit, most recently for a wonderful rhubarb crisp that brought back vivid memories of my mother's kitchen.

Rhubarb Crisp

4 c. rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 Tbsp. sugar plus 1 c. for the topping
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. orange liqueur like triple sec, Harlequin or Grand Marnier
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. frozen butter or margarine, in pieces

In medium mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, 2 Tbsp. sugar and liqueur. Set aside.

For topping, in bowl of food processor combine 1 c. sugar, flour and butter or margarine. Pulse until it is the texture of cornmeal.

Place rhubarb mixture in 9" by 12" baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle with topping mixture from processor. Bake at 350° for 40-50 min. until fruit is bubbly and topping is slightly golden.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Calçots: Grilled Spanish Spring Onions

It all started with those little, bright green lantern-shaped peppers call pimientos de padron—more familiarly known simply as "padrons"—that only required a quick blistering in hot oil and shower of salt to melt my knees as soon as I popped one in my mouth. For awhile they were only available from Manuel Recio and Leslie Lukas-Recio's Viridian Farms stand at the Portland Farmers Market, but pretty soon they were being featured on the hottest chef's menus all over town.

A couple of years later I heard about another Spanish delicacy that had appeared on Viridian's roster, a giant spring onion called calçots (pron. cahl-SOH). In Spain they're harvested from November through April, and festivals known as calçotadas are held in towns all over the region.

Cooked on a hot grill until the outside layer is blackened but not charred and the inside is soft and creamy, the outside layer is peeled off and dunked in a tangy romesco-like sauce called salbitxada (sahl-beet-SHAH-dah). Then, holding the onion aloft by the greens, the trick is to lower the soft, saucy white part into your mouth and bite it off without having the sauce dribble all over your face. (This video explains it better than I ever could.)

With calçot season upon us—you can get them right now at Manuel and Leslie's new retail outlet, Conserva—we finally held our own mini-calçotada on the patio. Traditionally served with beer and a variety of grilled meats, for our home version of a calçotada Dave quickly grilled bone-in pork chops and I made an herbed rice pilaf with chopped tarragon, red-veined sorrel and parsley from the garden…though the drips on our shirts signaled that we may need some more practice on the eating portion of this spring festival.

Calçots with Salbitxada Sauce

For the salbitxada sauce:
4 Tbsp. blanched almonds
4 fresh bitxo peppers (or other mildly hot pepper)
8 cloves garlic
4 ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the grilled calçots:
2-3 bunches (20-30) Spanish calçots or very young spring onions with long greens (when the bulb is very small)

Heat oven to 350°. Place almonds in hot oven to toast for 5-7 minutes. Place in a food processor and coarsely grind. Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing the seeds. Coarsely chop the peppers, removing the seeds and membranes. Peel and chop the garlic. Mash ground almonds, peppers and garlic into a paste with a food processor. Add tomatoes, parsley and vinegar. Pulsing the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil until sauce becomes thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled “calcots” (spring onions) or any other grilled vegetable. During summer months, consider serving this fresh sauce with grilled steaks or chops.

To prepare the calçots, simple build a hot fire in a grill. On the grate over the coals, spread out the calçots with the white end facing the center of the grill and the greens extending over the outside edge of the grill (top photo). Grill, turning occasionally, so the outside is blackened but not charred and the whites feel tender when squeezed.

To serve, pull the calçots off the grill and peel off the outer skin with your fingers. Grasping the greens in your hand, dunk the white part in the salbitxada sauce, raise the onion aloft and lower the white into your mouth, biting it off at the top of the white portion. When the calçots are all gone, whomever has the least sauce (or, I suppose, the most) on their person is the winner.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Your Food, Your Legislature: The Fight Takes Shape

The following is an edited version of an original report that was published on the Friends of Family Farmers' Muckboots in the Capitol blog. The numbered title of each bill (in bold) is linked to an overview on the state website. It is critical that you let your legislators know what you think about the issues that concern you. Find links at the bottom of this post to do that.

In the Good Corner

House Bill (HB) 3239: Also known as the "Aggie Bonds" bill, this is legislation that would expand loans to beginning farmers. It passed 58-1 on the House floor in mid-April, passed the Senate Business committee and is on the Senate floor awaiting action. Update: This bill passed the Senate on May 13, 2015, on a bipartisan vote of 30-0.

Senate Bill (SB) 341: This bill would protect agritourism providers from legal liability when they invite members of the public onto their property for both commercial and non-commercial activities, but will also require clear warning signs and outline other basic safety steps agritourism providers must take. It passed the entire Senate in a resounding bipartisan 29-0 vote.

SB 920: This bills seeks to limit the use of "medically important" antibiotics—i.e. those used on humans—on otherwise healthy animals by Oregon's livestock industry. (See my post, The Personal Gets Political.) It is now in the Senate Rules Committee, but is being strongly opposed by the state’s biggest corporate factory farms and out-of-state agricultural pharmaceutical companies. This is despite growing evidence of widespread problems and regulatory failures related to recurring outbreaks of antibiotic resistant disease as happened at Foster Farms, featured in an article by Lynne Terry titled A Game of Chicken: USDA Repeatedly Blinked When Facing Salmonella Outbreaks Involving Foster Farms.

HB 2723: This bill encourages the development of urban agriculture by giving tax incentives to property owners who allow small-scale urban agriculture on their property for five-year increments. It passed the full House on a 50-10 vote, and is now headed to the Senate where it will likely be amended to limit eligible farm size so that the new tax incentive primarily encourages smaller scale agricultural operations.

HB 2721: If passed into law, this bill would provide $5 million in funding for farm-to-school programs—a major increase from the $1.2 million currently—making funding available to every school district in Oregon to purchase local farm goods and locally processed foods for inclusion in school meal programs. It is currently awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 657: This bill would provide $16 million for OSU Extension and Ag Research Programs for small and beginning farmers support, pollinator health, food safety, water quality protection and help with research needs on crop rotation, reducing pesticide use, fermentation sciences and sustainable management techniques. It is currently awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 204: Originally a much broader bill to promote conservation activities on working farms and forests, it has been scaled back to create a task force to look at issues around working lands conservation and to establish a Clean Water Fund to support greater protection for riparian areas on farms, including through long-term easements. It is also in the Ways and Means Committee.

In the Bad Corner

HB 2674, HB 2675, SB 207: These bills, introduced by Gov. Kitzhaber, would have enacted some common-sense regulation to better protect Oregon’s vast non-genetically engineered agricultural industries from poorly regulated genetically engineered (GE) crops. They were essentially abandoned when Kitzhaber resigned, and there are currently no bills alive in Salem to strengthen state oversight over GE crops in Oregon.

HB 3382: Introduced on behalf of a handful of canola growers unhappy with a 2013 bill. Despite being only halfway through the bill's three-year research program and having no research results available, HB 3382 authorizes 500 acres of commercial canola production per year from 2016-2019. Worse, the bill says there will be no cap on canola acreage beginning in 2019 and contains no restrictions on genetically engineered canola, effectively putting the Willamette Valley’s specialty seed, fresh market vegetable and organic industries at great risk. (See my series on canola in the Willamette Valley.)

HB 2666: If passed, this legislation would place mining for aggregate (gravel) on farmland above agricultural uses on farmland, putting high value Oregon farmland at risk of being lost forever to mining activities. It is currently in the House Rules Committee and, because of idiosyncratic rules, is not subject to normal legislative deadlines, and may be the subject of behind-the-scenes negotiating and arm-twisting from mining interests.

It is critical that you speak up about the issues that concern you, so please consider contacting your legislators. Find your legislators and let them know what you think. And stay tuned for further updates as the 2015 session progresses!

Read the other posts in this series, Opening Salvos, The Good, The Bad and The UglyThe Personal Gets Political and Hanging in the Balance.