Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Looking for Land

This is the fourth year for Slow Hand Farm CSA and it will be the last one that we grow at Wild Goose Farm. When I started this project it was very experimental and I wasn’t sure what directions it would go. Yianni and Jessica (Wild Goose Farm) had recently purchased their property on Sauvie Island and after meeting Yianni at the Farmer Chef Connection event we talked about the potential for me to use some of his land to grow vegetables, hand scale. This was actually before I even knew it would be a CSA, this was actually a year before the farm even started.

Being that the land was new for Yianni and Jessica, and the farm was as of yet undefined, we said we’d try it out, see how it went and I made no long term plans. The deal was a handshake, very generous on their part, just wanting the space they weren’t currently using to be available for food production. Slow Hand Farm paid nothing, offering advice where we could for their own growing efforts, and leaving them weekly CSA shares as tokens of our appreciation.

When the CSA started in 2009 Yianni and Jessica were still living in town and they were just starting to develop the property into a livable space. The CSA was new, and just a one day a week project. Yianni worked hard to get water hooked up for us so that Danny and I could have irrigation in place that first season. The barns were still in disarray and being used to store salvaged construction materials so we washed produce under a little porch and hauled our tools back and forth.

As the property continued to change I helped Yianni pull out a fence to open up the former horse pasture, allowing us to more than double in size our second season. That allowed us to start working two days a week.

In 2010 Yianni saw our need for propagation space and also the potential for increasing his own summer vegetable production with an unheated hoop house so with a little help from us he put one up and let us use a portion. With scrap lumber from the property we built tables and a small reach-in greenhouse for heated space. We also took over little corners of the two barns for washing and packing, and for storing our tools and supplies. This was the year we started growing year round, and the year Kji started working along side me.

In 2011 Yianni and Jessica generously expanded the space available to us for storing tools and supplies, and also allowed us to use the barn space and wood fired oven on site for CSA member parties.

Now, four years in, the CSA is starting to become more defined in its needs, and scope, and while I never thought I’d expand, I’m considering it (in a small way). Yianni and Jessica now live on the property with their two kids and are continuing to develop their own space. The CSA is maturing and it’s time for us to find another space to allow Yianni and Jessica more space for their own projects.

This discussion of potentially moving started last fall, so it’s not sudden at all. At this point I am actively looking for another spot in the vicinity of the current location. I’ll continue to grow on the current spot in the mean time, but I will be trying to transition production to a new location as soon as possible (there are several potential sites I am pursuing).

I am incredibly grateful to Yianni and Jessica for giving me the opportunity and the space to start this incredible dream farm project. I thought about doing something like this for more than a decade before it became a reality, and that was largely due to their generosity in opening up their space to me - not just the land but in countless other ways as well.

If you happen to know of a possible location here are a few of the criteria I'm looking for:

  • At least 5000 square feet of growing space, but 1/2 and acre or more might be nice for possible expansion (I am also considering contracting, so maybe less space?). 
  • I need at least 5 gallons per minute of clean water (more is better). 
  • It needs to be within a 12 mile radius of North Portland.
  • No pests whatsoever (I can dream can't I?)
There's more too, but I think that covers the starting point (I was joking about the no pests thing).

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