Farming is easy to understand, as we’re often told we’re a nation of farmers, plus we can understand the concept of farming: Tractor, hard work and one can reap what they sow. Non-profit organizations are a bit more difficult to grasp, they’re companies, owned by no one, usually small, almost always entrepreneurial, fueled by passion to create change for the better and dedicated to the greater good. Even though they aren’t always understood, more people work in the non-profit sector in the US than are engaged in farming. By a factor of 5.
Portland Farmers Market is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote regional agriculture and create community spaces. PFM isn’t the only non-profit looking to address issues in agriculture, Food|Waves, a non-profit with a farm located in Colton, Oregon is helping train the next generation of farmers.
Matt Brown, Chief Operating Officer for Food|Waves spelled out the need for new farmers this way, “During the 1930s, about 25% of the U.S. population lived/worked on 6,000,000 small farms. By 1997, less than 2% of the population lived/worked on 157,000 larger farms. In 2010, the average age of a farmer in Oregon was 57.5 years with only 2.8% under 35 years of age. One problem is that the government subsidies heavily support corn, soy, and wheat grown with intense chemical use- and small farms can not compete with the larger farms. Honestly, I think the main problem is not getting young people interested, but getting young people trained. The cost of land, equipment, and education makes it difficult for someone to start their own small farming business.”
After Matt and his wife, Bobbie met Food|Waves partner Nathan McFall in Togo during a stint in the Peace Corps, the three began discussing the idea of working on an educational farm together. This was in 1999. Matt went on to become a Marine Science/Environmental Horticulture teacher, Nathan an organic farmer, they reunited to create Food|Waves, Again Matt Brown, “We started Food|Waves to promote local, organic food as a long-term solution to many environmental problems facing the world’s water, soil, and people. As a non-profit, we are training the next generation of organic farmers/gardeners and educating community members about the enormous environmental impact of industrial mega-farms, as well as, teaching those same community members how to grow their own food organically.
Food|Waves, has partnered with Converging Creeks Farm to create a hands-on learning environment for apprentices, interns, and volunteers. If you visit the farm, then we are able to teach you sustainable farming methods practiced by small acreage, organic farmers. Also, we bring the farm/garden experience to the community- working with schools, individuals, businesses, churches, and other non-profits. For example, we donate materials to a school garden, work with teachers to help develop curriculum, harvest the veggies with students, share the food with community members, and, finally, teach the community members how to grow/prepare their own food.”
Food|Waves funds its operation in part by selling produce from their farm. They raise lettuce, all kinds of greens, summer/winter squash, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, celery/celeriac, carrots, beets, peas, onions, corn, and strawberries, along with asparagus, basil, sage, parsley, dill and thyme on 2 acres of land. Fruit trees planted in 2011 will soon add apples, pears, persimmon and plums to the crops. Like other non-profits, Food|Waves also relies on funding, personal and corporate along with grants like the Cliff Bar grant that is supporting the training of two interns in 2012.
You can learn more about Food|Waves by visiting their website, picking up a bag of their mixed greens at New Seasons or for the more personal touch talking to Matt, Nathan or other Food|Wavers at Friday at our Kenton Market or at PSU Market on Saturdays.