10 July 2011

The Growers Alliance

Article and most photos by Lauren Morse
I never knew what a versatile vegetable the common radish could be—until this summer. This year I entered Mercy

Sherrett St. farm, Spring 2011

Corps Northwest’s New American Agriculture Project (NAAP), a program which helps new American growers, refugees, and immigrants start market gardens in the Portland area. I farm in the Johnson Creek neighborhood alongside three other families, two Bhutanese and one Nepalese.

Lauren and Bipana Photo: David Beller

One of my fellow farmers, Pabi Tiwari, worked excitedly alongside me one day as I pulled small salad turnips and pink radishes from the ground. She doesn’t speak very much English, but in broken words and gestures she told me how important the radish is to her cooking. She spoke of growing long, white radishes in her home country and using them for pickled dishes. This summer I’m looking forward to trying some pickled radishes of my own.
The connections I’ve made with these growers are unlike any I’ve made before. In addition to the men and women I grow with in SE Portland, NAAP includes several Slavic and Burmese families who farm in Damascus. Together we form the Portland Growers Alliance. I lead the marketing efforts for the alliance, selling what we grow to Portland farmers markets, local restaurants, New Seasons, and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.
This alliance is a partnership between Mercy Corps Northwest (MCNW) and Grow Portland, a new urban

Radishes, Beets, and Baby Onions at Monday PFM

agriculture non-profit. MCNW provides the land and resources needed for farmers to start market gardens in Portland, and Grow Portland provides the marketing support and trucking services to sell what MCNW growers produce. The aim of the Growers Alliance is to offer marketing support to farmers who lack the experience, English skills, or capital expenses to invest in trucking and market equipment of their own. This support makes selling at direct markets (such as the Portland Farmers Market) accessible to growers of all backgrounds.

Pabi and Jamuna Photo: Bruce MacGregor

In addition to helping MCNW growers, the Growers Alliance will soon be expanding to include additional small growers in the Portland area. Our vision is to become a collective of farmers sharing equipment, resources (i.e. bulk seed purchasing), and knowledge with each other.
For more information about our growers, or to become involved with our CSA program, check out Grow Portland  and Mercy Corps. You can find us every Monday through September at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Farmers Market from 10-2 pm. Beginning July 16th, you’ll also find us at the Saturday PSU Farmers Market from 8:30-2:00 pm. We’d love for you to stop by!

Growers Alliance Week 4 CSA Box