1000 Friends of Oregon

Greg Holmes with 1000 Friends

Greg Holmes is the Food Systems Program Director at 1000 Friends of Oregon. 1000 Friends was formed in 1975 after the passage of Senate Bill 100 created Oregon’s land use program. Greg explained that Senate Bill 100 “created urban growth boundaries.  Basically, a line is drawn around a city. The idea is that you try to get most of the growth, most of the development, most of the population, and most of the jobs, inside that line rather than outside, which leaves the land on the outside available for resource uses like forestry or agriculture…The bill created the concept of an urban growth boundary as a new tool for how Oregon could accommodate growth and population and simultaneously protect Oregon’s thriving agriculture and forest economies.”

Once urban growth boundaries were established, rules were made that determined how land had to be dealt with, both inside and outside of cities. Greg explains, “Cities have to do a lot of planning to make them good places to live. They have to plan for the form of the city, they have to plan for transportation, they have to plan to make sure that they are going to have enough land for housing and enough land for employment, whether that’s factories or offices or fire departments or schools.” Land outside of the boundaries is also planned and protected for specific uses. For example, land zoned for agriculture must be used for related purposes, and can’t be used for things like building subdivisions. Greg explains that “each county is required to have its own plan that complies with state law, and then each city is required to have its own plan that complies with both the county it’s in and the state. All the counties are different and all the cities are different but they all fit within the statewide framework that they have to comply with.”

When it first began, 1000 Friends mainly acted as a citizens watchdog group, “Making sure that state and local governments implement the land use system the way it was intended to be implemented.” Greg explains that in the past 40 years, “ We have evolved as the needs have changed. Now we work a lot more proactively ensuring that development and growth is done in a way that looks toward the long term sustainability of the state and our resources here.”

1000 Friends created their Food Systems Program as a part of that evolution. Based in part on work Greg was already doing with the Rogue Valley Food System Network and in other communities in southern Oregon, its purpose is to help Oregonians understand and realize the benefits that come from strong local food systems. Inside the cities this means building neighborhoods where people have access to the things they need, including healthy, nutritious food, and the option to not have to drive to get them. It means making cities places people want to live, so that the cities don’t sprawl out and cover good agricultural lands. Outside of the cities it means helping farmers be economically successful so that they don’t feel pressure to develop their land for other uses. Finally, it also means connecting those farmers to the people in the cities who will buy what Oregon farmers are producing, strengthening our economy and making Oregon a better place for us all to live.  To learn more about 1000 Friends of Oregon visit https://www.friends.org/

Wolf Gulch Farm

Wolf Gulch Farm

wolf gulch

Wolf Gulch Farm, owned and operated by Maud and Tom Powell, is located in the Little Applegate. The farm is approximately three acres in size and its products are certified organic. The products grown at the farm have changed throughout the years. Maud explains, “It’s been this whole learning process of finding out what works well on our farm, what we like to grow, what’s profitable, and what there are markets for. What we’ve found is that our property is best-suited to growing seed crops.” As such, about half of the farms production is seed crops; in any given year Wolf Gulch Farm grows, “Somewhere between fifteen to twenty different types of seeds. We almost always grow lettuce, tomatoes, onions, leeks, parsnips, kale, and a range of other seed crops” that also include flowers, such as zinnias and sunflowers. In addition to seeds, they also grow produce, which is sold “almost exclusively” through CSA’s. During the summer and fall seasons, Wolf Gulch Farm sells their produce through the Siskiyou Sustainable Coop. During the winter months, they sell their produce via their own Wolf Gulch Farm CSA.

Maud spoke about some of the challenges of farming, including improving the soil and the Rogue Valley’s limited water supply. Maud explains, “We have a heavy clay soil but since 1998 we’ve been using all the practices you hear about to build organic matter in your soil. We’ve been doing cover cropping, green manure cropping, and using compost. It’s been really cool to see that after all this time we have a lot of topsoil built up in our fields. It’s really nice to see that those practices work.” Regarding water issues Maud explains, “We don’t have a lot of water but seed crops don’t need as much water as annuals.” Because of the drought, they have been, “Doing more water catchment and just being more careful during the winter about collecting as much water as possible.” Due to the drought, Wolf Gulch Farm suspended their winter CSA program for the first time last year, but they hope to re-start it this year.

When asked about the rewards of farming, Maud said,“ There’s so many things about it that I love… It’s really rewarding that our job is to grow food for people. It’s incredible. It’s such an honor… The seed we sell is going all over the country. The fact that the seeds from our farm are being grown in all these gardens and farms around the country is mind-blowing… It’s amazing to me.” To find out more about Wolf Gulch Farm’s seeds, visit http://www.siskiyouseeds.com.


Oshala Farm

je-calendula-pickingOshala Farm, located in the Applegate Valley, is owned and managed by Elise and Jeff Higley. The farm, first established in 1906 by the Hill family, spans across 113 acres, about 50 of which is farmland. This season, 24 acres are in production. According to Elise Higley, “We grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and tree crops.” Oshala Farm also produces their own teas and line of spices, which are for sale on their online store.

Elise spoke about the challenges and rewards of farming. “The most rewarding part is hearing from people down the line that “I had your teas” or  “this is the best squash I’ve ever had” or things like that. It’s just a really great feeling because it is so much hard work. To know that your product got somewhere and brought health or a smile to somebody’s face makes you feel really good; it makes it all worth it.”

As for the challenges, Elise says that, “Farming is very physically demanding. You need to find the right people to work with that are as crazy as you are, that are willing to work long hours and get up in the dark and stay out until dark, and help you harvest with headlights in the freezing cold, and are as passionate about providing local food. It’s challenging to be able to find people who are willing to do that and pay them what you feel is worth their time.”

There are other challenges, as well, “The cost of infrastructure is definitely challenging. It’s hard to get loans on your overall, everyday costs. It’s easier to get loans for equipment.” Elise stated, “We don’t have a lot of mechanism on our farm for our veggies so it takes longer to harvest things and it costs more money. The biggest barrier is being able to provide quality food at a competitive price.” Oshala Farm does its part to help bring fresh, nutritious food to individuals who may not be able to easily afford it. “We do offer a discount section for our seconds or blemished items. We always have volunteers come work on the farm, which is great, too. We love to give them lots of food.”  To find out more about Oshala farm, or to purchase their products, visit http://www.oshalafarm.com.

Photo provided by  David Gribb Photography.