- About Us
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Our fabulous writing intern from Green Mountain College in Vermont, Emily Aronowitz, wrote a version of the Farm's history, in the enlightening Farm Story.
Here is a technical overview of the land acquisition, whereby this land was saved.
And here is 10 years of photos, that tell the story of the physical transformations of the land and the many hands that have brought them about.
TLC Farm as a non-profit organization has accomplished a great deal with very little operating income. At the same time, we have raised a very large amount of money in order to protect the land we occupy from development (see our history). An important part of our "open source" approach to this project is making the accounting for our operations as accessible as possible. As this web site matures, we are placing current and archive financial statements and budgets here.
Our basic financial reports for all years of our existence are attached to this page below. These include:
We are an almost entirely volunteer-run organization, so we aren't able to staff an office fulltime. However, we do encourage you to get in touch with questions, ideas, scheduling inquiries, and offers of help!
Email is probably the most effective and direct way to get in touch. The following is a partial list of where to direct your message:
(Note that we don't coordinate residential stays on the land: for that, please contact Cedar Moon.)
Our office phone is 503-245-3847. If someone is in the office -- with even likelihood any day except Monday -- they will probably answer the phone. Otherwise, please leave a message and we'll get back to you when we can.
Our new fax number is (503) 342-2618. These are reviewed over email on a similar schedule with our voicemails -- that is, not every day.
Tryon Life Community Farm 11640 SW Boones Ferry Road Portland, OR 97219 Also see directions.
TLC Farm has received a great deal of media coverage, both during the drama of the eviction proceedings and as human interest stories and photos covering our programs. The following is a sampling of newspaper articles; we have also been on both KBOO and OPB, several TV stations, and public access cable.
Hands-on Sustainability Education Program: Six years of the Hands-on Sustainability Program has brought between 50-100 groups of students per year, preschool through adults, to participate in farm tours and a variety of interactive sustainable-living programs. In five years we have hosted approximately 400 class visits, totaling 6,000 student visitors.
Summer Camps: 2006 & 2007: two weeks of summer camp, including Farm Camp and Drum Camp. 2008 - 2010: Mother Earth School summer camps & Rite of Passage camps all summer, immersing hundreds of children in farm, forest and spirit.
Community Workshops: Between 15-30 workshops held each year. Key focus areas: Natural Building, Herbal Medicine, Food Preservation, Natural Crafts, Plants & Mushrooms, Applied Permaculture, and Community Process. We now host weekend-long skillshares every month, encouraging folks to bring and share their earth-based skills with each other.
Permaculture Design Certification Courses: Hosted three two-week residential courses, in 2007, 2009 & 2010. 44 people received Permaculture Design Certificates. Interns & work-trade: Forty-five interns/work-traders have immersed themselves in TLC Farm since 2006, staying for one week to one year. Interns have participated in a wide variety of projects, including curriculum development and teaching, gardening and animal husbandry, community outreach, and building projects.
Community Service Projects: TLC Farm has hosted thousands of participants in volunteer service projects, ranging from groups of hundreds of Nike and Whole Foods employees to small Americorps service teams to school groups. Service project participants have assisted with the removal of invasive species, habitat restoration and work in the organic garden.
Mother Earth School: In Fall 2007, began hosting the Mother Earth Kindergarten – the country's first bio-immersion kindergarten – in collaboration with Shining Star Waldorf School. In 2008, expanded to include the Faery Garden pre-school. In January, 2009, the program separated from Shining Star and became a program of TLC Farm called Mother Earth School. About 50 children have received a unique immersion into the elements and rhythms of nature.
Organic Garden & Food Forest: Converted 2.5 acres of lawn and field to organic garden, and erected a 1200-foot greenhouse for year-round growing and indoor classroom. Planted two Food Forests (multi-level perennial food production systems that mimic the production of a natural ecosystem).
Watershed Restoration: To better direct, manage and store storm water we dug and shaped bioswales and planted native plants, fruit trees and herbs, in three different areas of TLC Farm. Planted our wetland with willows, removed acres of blackberry and English Ivy.
Beautiful, functional and sustainable buildings: Village Green: Earthen Sauna; Butterfly stage; Naturally-built outhouse for two composting toilets; Outdoor Kitchen with two cob ovens, rocket-stove heated cob bench, gorgeous round pole-framed roof Barn: Hayloft and side barn for our goat herd; New barn loft for an office/classroom space; Light clay/straw insulation of lower barn for year-round classroom; Replaced barn support beams and siding On the land: solar shower, moveable chicken house, kids' play structure, stairs and pathways on the land
Animal Husbandry: TLC Farm is one of the only educational urban farms in the Portland area to have a dairy goat herd. Our goats provide city dwellers a rare opportunity to visit with and learn about traditional farm animal; the goats also remove invasive species by browsing blackberries. Our rotating chicken flock and sheep herd keep the blackberries from returning, and provide eggs & wool.
This land is your land! We have made this unique place available to a broad diversity of people to use for their meetings, parties and events. A sample of groups include: The Native American Youth Association using the sweatlodge; Lewis & Clark College Departments holding planning meetings; Wisdom of the Elders running its Peace Warriors groups; Cascadia Wild hosting its summer camp; meditation groups coming here for retreat; Birthdays and Anniversaries being celebrated in the Village Green; and much more.
Events: TLC Farm has hosted at least three large interactive celebrations every year, including Bloom, the Harvest Festival and our Holiday Open House. These large and lively gatherings weave together music, art, education, food and family fun for hundreds of participants.
Social Ecology: Focusing on how we get things done together – we have demonstrated and trained people and organizations in the arts of community decision-making, positive conflict-resolution and creative, grassroots management of community organizations.
ReCode Portland: TLC Farm launched ReCode in 2007 to identify and remove barriers to sustainable building and land use. Since then ReCode led the way to legalizing graywater use for irrigation statewide, helped shape Portland's green building code, and is currently working to create better state code for composting toilets.
By Emily Aronowitz July 2007
Tryon Life Community Farm - If you happen to miss the driveway and enter via a forest path (as some of us do, intentionally or not) you will see, hear, and smell (in no particular order) big Nubian goats bleating a greeting. Past the barn, a grove of maples will come into sight and, beyond that, a slope of garden plots. There is a general buzzing in the air—some kind of insect, or perhaps the honey-producing bees in the field. Birds are chirping, whistling, and cawing, butterflies and other air-borne creatures make erratic, gentle swoops the early summer sunlight. Just beyond the cedars and firs towering over this meadow, the familiar drone of traffic is a constant reminder that this is no home on the range, but an urban ecovillage, a place where human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a healthy way that can be continued into the future. You have just entered Tryon Life Community Farm, and there's no turning back now. You may find yourself munching on sun-warmed raspberries in the Edible Forest Garden or plucking cherries straight from the tree in the orchard that also contains apples, plums, and figs. It may look like Eden, but there is no fruit forbidden. At the top of a gravel driveway just off Boone's Ferry Rd., a wooden sign reads, “Congratulations. Together we saved Tryon Life Community Farm. Thank you.” This is the proper entrance to Tryon Life Community Farm, the operative word here not being proper, but together, for this place would not exist without the support, encouragement, and hard work of the residential community at TLC Farm, as well as the greater community of Portland organizations and individuals. It seems appropriate that it took so much involvement because that's really what a community is about, right? A group of people working together toward a common goal or shared vision, people who support and look out for one another, not in the sense of a nosy neighbor or overprotective parent, but as individuals who recognize their connection to this place and what can be accomplished together. TLC Farm is an alternative to unconstrained growth, and they are practicing the new buzzword of our time—sustainability. Many people will agree that we have been whirling out of balance over generations, losing touch with where our food comes, not seeing our connection to the nature around us, and unaware of the energy we consume in our everyday tasks. Tryon Life Community Farm provides educational opportunities, preserves green space, restores native ecosystems, and demonstrates how one can indeed live sustainably in this day-and-age and in a rather urban setting. All communities have their struggles and obstacles to overcome, and TLC Farm is no different. This could be yet another story of urban development versus the back-to-the-land movement; condos and traffic versus community healing and environmental education; bulldozers, construction crews, and 23 luxury homes with park views versus herb gardens, cob huts, chicken coops, and room for children to play. But this is not about anti-development or about saving a hippy-dippy commune; it is a story about people actively creating positive change, working toward a new sort of lifestyle that, ironically, is as old as the hills. So much environmentalism is gloom and doom, and this is a legitimate story of success.
In the beginning...
The Farm is nestled against Tryon Creek State Park, 650 acres of diverse forest with a creek running through it. It is Oregon's only state park located within a major metropolitan area and is frequented by Portland area residents. A representative from the Portland Permaculture Guild wrote, “TLC Farm is in a unique position to be able to demonstrate the reality of living off the land while also remaining closely connected to a large urban center.” TLC is situated between urban (city) and rural (forest), able to demonstrate environmental and agricultural practices within easy reach of the city. On the Farm is an 18-person, including three children under the age of four, intentional community called Cedar Moon. Residents volunteer ten hours a week with land and building projects, fundraising, education, organizing workshops and events, outreach, spiritual ecology, and caring for the goats and chickens. Six hours a week are spent in contribution to the community—cooking, cleaning, doing chores, and gardening. TLC Farm has not always been growing vegetables and building community. They have undergone major changes throughout the years. Most of the Tryon State Park area is a public resource, protected from development by community organizing over thirty years ago. Seven acres remained in private hands. This land has been tilled for one hundred years and contains two houses and one barn. It has been a functioning farm since the 1930s, when it was owned by the Schuster and Whiting families. In 1977 the Whitings sold it to Gisele Fitch and Karl Marlantes, a couple who wanted to turn it into yoga retreat center. They converted the old farmhouse and garage into apartments intended for yoga devotees, but the idea fizzled, so they rented the apartments out to a series of Lewis and Clark College students, artists, organic farmers, and natural builders, while they lived in Seattle. When the couple split and were no longer living on the land, there was talk of selling it. People residing on the land held the first recorded meeting on June 2, 2003 to stop the first interested developer, Weston Properties Investment, from purchasing the property. The ten residents created a Vision Group, Legal Group, Community Outreach Group, and Friends of Tryon Liaisons in an effort to purchase the land so it could be protected through a land trust. This means there can be no development and no risk or damage to the property. Karl wanted to use the money from the sale of the land to pay for his children's college education, and developers were the only ones who offered to buy. Two developers had been interested, but walked away from the property due to community resistance. Meanwhile, residents began to discuss the possibility of becoming a non-profit organization, and some residents began laying the groundwork for this idea. In April of 2004, the same month they incorporated as a non-profit through the Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust, Brownstone Homes bought an option agreement (the right to buy the property in one year).
Save the farm!
With development seemingly certain, residents looked in earnest for ways to save the farm. The proposed development would endanger an extremely sensitive ecosystem, surrounded on three sides by Tryon Creek State Park. There have been ongoing efforts to restore salmon, which are now few and far between, to Tryon Creek. Development adds sedimentation to the creek, increasing turbidity and posing a threat to fish and insects. By saving the farm, seven acres of land in the buffer zone of a watershed would be preserved. While Randy Meyers of Brownstone Homes pictured pavement and 23 mini mansions, residents had a different idea in mind and fought to instill their vision: “Tryon Life Community Farm provides educational opportunities to the Portland community while preserving common green space, restoring native ecosystems, and demonstrating sustainable urban density living.” The Farm also hosts classes and workshops on topics that include organic agriculture, solar energy, biodiesel, medicinal plants, food preservation, drumming, and environmental philosophy.
A Community Effort
William Eadie, a real-estate negotiator for Metro, attended an open house at the Farm in the summer of 2004. Metro manages Portland's urban growth boundary, provides planning expertise to local governments, businesses and citizens, and sets the region's transportation funding priorities and plans, so their support would be particularly important. William chatted about the vision of TLC, but left with little hope of seeing the vision to fruition. At that point, Metro did not even have the money to help the cause; however, the vision planted itself in William's head, so he returned to the Farm after everyone else had left the open house. He became a core ally and a mentor for farm residents, helping to realistically and effectively negotiate with developers and other involved parties. Now, the volunteer core grew to include many more than the farm residents. Volunteers canvassed nearly 700 homes to update people on the Farm's actions during fund raising efforts, and they hosted picnics and other events on the property. Community support, including letters from Portland Public Schools, Portland State University, the Office of Sustainable Development, Portland Community College, Mayor Tom Potter, and hundreds of others, helped persuade Brownstone Homes to sell its option agreement to TLC Farm for $125,000 to cover its hard costs. Then farmies (as the core TLC Farm volunteers referred to themselves as) had one year to come up with $1.4 million if they wanted to keep the land. Farm residents were not in the financial position to purchase the option agreement, let alone a fee in the millions. Luckily (or providentially) a past farm resident, Carolyn Stuart loaned $40,000, and philanthropist Michael Burmeister-Brown loaned $45,0000 (later turned into a gift), which was a risky undertaking for a project that might not succeed. The farmies, freshly invigorated, pushed on. Brenna Bell, the third founding board member, who also happens to be an environmental lawyer, aided local attorney Tim Murphy - who donated his services to the residents - in the effort to fight the eviction and stay on the land until a later court date. In February 2005, a Multnomah County judge ruled to allow the residents to remain on the land while appealing the eviction notice. Word was getting around, and even city council members, Sam Adams and Dan Saltzman began talking about TLC Farm, and in October 2005, the city, state, park service, and Metro got together to discuss the possibility of official and financial support. Sam Adams was the first to state public support for the Farm. The sustainability and education model of TLC Farm was exactly what government agencies wanted, though there was a lot of uncertainty about donating to the Farm. Metro, the City of Portland, and the Friends of Tryon Creek State Park did, however, purchase a conservation easement on the land, so that only conservation activities could take place on certain areas of the farm. Friends of Tryon Creek was started in 1969 to conserve and enhance the natural resources of the park, and they first saved the park from development in 1970. The entrance to TLC Farm is located on State Park property, but Friends and residents have always been on good terms, so it was not a problem. The Friends were against development of the 7 acres of the Farm, though board President Craig Johnston was skeptical about the success of the farm, so did not donate funds right away. When developers offered to lessen the construction to only eleven mansions in exchange for use of the Park driveway, Friends of Tryon Creek seriously considered the offer, thinking it was probably the best they could get. Farm residents, Hope and Ty, attended a Salmon Nation gathering in 2004, and met someone there involved in Eco Trust, who referred them to the Vice President of Shorebank Pacific, Lucy Brehm, who set them up with Chief Credit Officer Randall Leach. ShoreBank Pacific is the first commercial bank in the U.S. with a commitment to environmentally sustainable community development. Justly, the bank recognized TLC Farm as a way to preserve a natural resource while serving the community. Leach says, “Tryon Life Community Farm is a rare example of a community coming together to protect not only a valuable piece of land from development, but a way of life.” Randall helped to identify what needed to be done, such as completing a business plan and strategic plan and getting a land appraisal, which cost $4,000, and he helped to speed up what could have been a much longer process. In February 2005, farm residents worked three straight days to complete the paperwork to apply for non-profit status and completed a grand lease contract with developers. Everything needed to be written down. Farmies wrote outlines of potential liabilities for loans and an operating agreement and conflict resolution plan was developed to solidify the relationship between TLC, the non-profit and Cedar Moon, the community. Leach and the lending team worked through weekends to tie up loose ends and come up with a $600,000 loan. “Philosophically, we were strong supporters of TLC Farm from the get go, he says, “Our customers expect us to use their deposits to lend to healthy community projects such as TLC Farm...” While negotiations were going on, Brush, a farm resident, was also in contact with Equity Trust, an non-profit organization based out of Massachusetts which provides technical assistance and training for communities to gain ownership interests in the food, land and housing and related issues of institutional and public policy. They wanted to create a land trust that would be split between the land and improvements on the property. This would constrain the amount and location of additional construction on the land. With this deal, the land trust would own the lease of the farm, while the owner (i.e. TLC Farm) would get the benefits of improvements on the land for agricultural and educational purposes. Resident Jenny Leis, who was also a co-director of the City Repair Project, proposed that TLC Farm partner with City Repair. City Repair is a group of citizen activists helping others construct creative living and public gathering places. No formal relationship was established; however, the personal connections with City Repair individuals was vital, and they became a support system for the Farm, helping with fund raising events and networking. Another vital supporter was the Arnold Creek Neighborhood Association. The Association considers issues that may arise in the neighborhood, has an operations budget, and can challenge land violations without charge. Farm residents have been attending Arnold Creek meetings since 2004. Brush and the president of the association, Nancy Hand, canvassed the neighborhood to inform them about the potential development, which everyone in the community thought was a bad idea. The efforts of TLC Farm were being recognized, and in June 2005, the Arnold Creek Neighborhood Association awarded them "Volunteer of the Year." Eventually, funds began trickling and gushing in from donations, loans, and grants, including contributions from the Bureau of Environmental Services, Metro, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The Ten-Day Countdown
One hundred days before the deadline to raise the $1.4 million to purchase the farm, the (then) 15 residents placed a countdown sign at the top of the driveway reading “___ Days to Save the Farm!” As the farm was transforming into becoming a non-profit and a more established community, dynamics shifted as some residents moved out and others moved in, even through the impending eviction and its aftermath. The people that remained have realized the importance of communication amongst each other and their commitment to this place. On January 1st, the ten-day countdown began. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were still needed, and many would have called the effort hopeless. During this time, some residents went into debt or lived off of savings, dedicating all their time to fund raising and attending community meetings that sometimes lasted up to nine hours at a time. Brenna Bell, President of the Board, who was raising her infant daughter throughout the campaign, at the time of the countdown, recalls, “We almost made a collective decision not to think about what would happen if we didn't get the money—that just the sheer power of manifestation would pull it off.” Every morning and afternoon, they stood under a tent on Boone's Ferry and provided coffee for commuters. They held signs and even got city commissioners to picket. Jenny Leis, a resident who was instrumental in the process, put it simply, “You can change the world with cardboard and crayons.” Cardboard and crayons, and a little help from the neighbors. TV stations parked themselves on the farm and filmed people handing checks to farm residents; every radio and newspaper covered the story. The Oregonian featured the plight on the front page of the Metro section. People in the area gave bridge loans, allowing TLC Farm to borrow money with zero interest. Volunteers arrived to help with cooking and childcare, so residents would actually have the time for the tasks at hand. During the last five days, Brenna gave a daily update on local radio talk show KPOJ. The Oregonian wrote an op-ed article in support of the farm. There was obvious community support, but when rosy-colored dawn shed her light on the green fields of Tryon on the 5th day of the countdown, there was still a need for green of another kind. During this time, Metro and the Friends of Tryon Creek had been voting on whether or not to donate to TLC. On January 5th, they both voted yes, and the checks came rolling in. The City Council, which was considering donating $100,000 towards a conservation easement decided to double their gift. Portland and Lake Oswego residents kept stopping by with more cash and checks in hand. On January 6th, it finally became clear that TLC farm would have enough money to succeed and residents held a party complete with balloon hats to celebrate Brenna's birthday and their financial success. The funds had come in the nick of time, but there did not seem to be enough time to fill out the mountain of paperwork that needed to be completed to make the farm theirs. It was a seven part land transaction, including the part of the previous owners, who did not believe they would actually make it; however, with hard work, cardboard and crayons, good manifesting, and a little old fashioned finagling, the farm was finally saved. So much could have gone wrong in the process; there was ample room for failure, but residents agree that there was something divine working in their favor.
Walking the talk
The pace of life has relaxed considerably since the countdown. Meetings have diminished from twice a day to every week or so, but TLC Farm is still working towards a sustainable future, one in which we can reconnect with the land and with each other. Sustainability is not just about saving the earth, though we could all agree that she does need some TLC (no pun intended), but it also applies to our relationships. TLC describes sustainability as “an approach to life in which we see ourselves interwoven with the world around us, in balance with the cycles of our food, our shelter, our energy.” We drive our personal cars down the highway from our single-family homes to spend our day generally averting our gazes from people we do not know or who do not directly affect us. At TLC Farm, the goal is to create a forum for ideas and partnerships. Additionally, by educating young people about sustainable practices and instilling care for their surroundings, TLC Farm hopes to help create a generation of conscious thinkers and kids who see dirt in a whole new light. Emma Callahan, a middle school student, recalls, “I really enjoyed spending time at Tryon Farm, learning about where my food comes from, and feeling the squish of cob between my feet.” Since the non-profit was established, TLC Farm has been a venue for faculty retreats for Lewis and Clark College, team building conferences for Americorps, and a site for a conference for the National Intentional Community Association and Audubon Expeditions. A partnership has been created with Friends of Tryon Creek State Park, which works on native plant restoration and conservation of the state park. Fuego, a community organization for at-risk youths and adults has held workshops and sweat lodges at the Farm. The Boys and Girls Aid Society and Sunnyside Environmental School are frequent visitors. Risa, an 8th grader from Sunnyside, said of her experience, “I had such a good time with everything we did. My favorites were mixing the cob with our feet [and] learning how many bugs live in the soil and how much we depend on soil.” The Farm also hosts summer camps and groups ranging from preschoolers to teenagers to college students and professors. They have designed an experiential education program that pairs practical training in social and ecological responsibility, as well as critical thinking and collaborative skills. TLC Farm's 2007 youth education program is funded mainly by a grant from Spirit Mountain Community. “Teaching children real ways to sustainability, getting them involved in using resources wisely, and giving them a beautiful place to enjoy the natural world are integral to their stewardship of the land and its resources,” writes Anmari Kicza, a kindergarten teacher at Portland Friends School. “Thank you for your positive addition to the Portland community.” But it's not just for kids. The farm welcomes all members of the Portland community, not just students of school, but the students of life. The Farm is open to the public three days a week. There are, in fact, three welcome signs at the entrance, and visitors can feel comfortable taking a self-guided tour, wandering around the gardens, clucking with the chickens, or relaxing in the maple grove. Work parties are held on Thursdays and Saturdays to dig in the dirt or assist with a natural building project, and volunteers may even be rewarded with a fresh meal served hot from the outdoor cob oven. One of the most visible and photogenic volunteer projects is the cob sauna made of sand, clay, straw, and water. The exterior shows off the craftsmanship of master carpenters, artists, and other energetic volunteers. So what is the vision behind the art?
Functioning like a forest
TLC Farm likes to think of a forest as a visionary model. A forest symbolizes chaos and all that is unplanned and unruly, yet forests are peaceful and comforting, not to mention efficient and resilient. It is their seemingly unintentional and symbiotic relations that makes them beautiful. The community's organizational structure and leadership of the Farm are based on the theory of permaculture, which mimics a natural ecosystem. Permaculture is a holistic design technique, as well as a way of life, encouraging beneficial connections between elements in order to create sustainable, regenerative systems. It is also about cultivating relationships that make sense in order to decrease energy input and increase longevity of systems. Permaculture was developed in the mid 1970s by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren to create a more stable agricultural system in response to increasingly destructive industrial methods. Permaculture, meaning “permanent agriculture” was their retort to methods that were poisoning the land and water and reducing necessary biodiversity. The ethics of permaculture are Care of the Earth, Care of People (promoting self-reliance and community responsibility), and Setting Limits to Population and Consumption. That sounds reasonable, but how does one put it into practice? In order to function like a forest, individuals must be able to work together towards a common vision, and diversity must be able to balance out the system for the health of the community and for each individual. At TLC Farm, there is no hierarchy, but each part (or person, in this case) serves a purpose and has a say in decision-making. Choosing a new community member is decided upon by consensus. New members then have a two month trial period, so both parties can determine if the situation is mutually beneficial. It's not for everyone. Farm residents learn to contribute to a larger vision.
Planning for a New Urban Ecology
During a strategic planning initiative for Tryon Life Community Farm, five categories of use for the land were created: Education, Forum, Demonstration & Ecological Design, Holistic Care for Body & Soul, and Community. The education aspect would create community workshops, hold field trips for youth and school groups, construct outdoor and indoor classrooms, a library, and long-term partnerships with local and international organizations. It would be a forum, a place for organizations and communities could come together to meet and gather in a respectful environment that encourages relationship with the land and each other. The ecological design would pay attention to the ecological footprint of the community, and create ponds, irrigation systems, and greywater systems that would make productive use of water and keep pollution out of the Tryon Creek watershed. This category also includes vegetable production, protecting wildlife habitat and native species, and other building and energy projects that would reduce the footprint of the community. The Farm would also be a place for meditation, food celebrations, and healing arts to care for the body and soul. Lastly, but certainly not least, the land would invite opportunities to build community. Some of these planning initiatives are a reality on the land right now, some are in process, and others are a vision for the future. Sufficient capital is the biggest constraint, according to the non-profit's single part-time employee, Matt Gordon, Education Coordinator for the youth program. Matt says they are in the research and planning phase for most of the water management projects. The plan is to catch water that comes from a cliff off Boone's Ferry. Currently, rainwater rushes onto the driveway and between the main house and apartments, through the meadow to the headwaters in a grove that goes into Tryon Creek. The idea is to eventually create three terraced ponds with successively cleaner water, which would be used for irrigation and possibly minimal nano-hydroelectric generation. Currently, there are willow trees planted in the wetland headwater grove to process water. Willow roots are great water filters and help to keep soil in place to prevent erosion. Additionally, a non-native invasive species, the yellow flag iris, has been removed from the area in an effort to prevent it from spreading downstream and to restore the headwater wetland environment. People from outside the community not only lend a weed-pulling and cob-mixing helping hand, but their expertise and energy, as well. Recently, there was an energy audit done to discern the efficiency of the buildings, and the result has spurred plans to install more insulation. In May of this year, global justice activist and writer, Starhawk, held an Earth Activist Training on the Farm, and attendees came up with many design ideas for the land. One idea was to catch storm water by building a ditch on the uphill side of the driveway and then run it underneath the driveway into a filtration system. Currently, rain water from the roof of the composting bathroom building runs into a swale that irrigates the orchard trees. All community members are involved in projects where their interests or specialties lie. Matt Gordon and Bonsai Matt, for example, coordinate the vegetable garden. Russ is in charge of maintenance and building projects. Brenna and Hope facilitate many of the cob projects. Many projects,however, are the result of workshops held on the land with the hands of outside volunteers and participants. A section of the garden is reserved for a gardener who cultivates at TLC Farm, along with a few other plots in SE Portland, for a ten-member CSA program.
TLC FaRM is safe, but every farmer knows that the work is never done. Brenna, in retrospect, realizes that the threat of development was a catalyst that really pushed them to create the Farm as it is today. One major goal for the farm is to have increased financial stability, to pay back loans and to create more land projects. Right now money comes from grants, as well as donations and fees from visiting classes and workshops that are held on the land. The goats are now paying for themselves through the sale of goat milk. Though the sense of urgency no longer remains, and residents and visitors are able to enjoy the land, there are always projects in the making to increase sustainability awareness and to bring the community together. The guiding vision of the Farm is to move this society towards sustainability in its many forms and guises. We may think romantically of being awoken by the hearty cockadoodledoo of a rooster. Most of us feel a longing at some point for a deeper connection to the land, which is no surprise as agriculture is the oldest activity in which we, as humans, have engaged, that allowed us to stay in one place, form complex social groups, and build our civilizations. Farming is in fact older than civilization as we know it. Returning to the land is stereotypically a hippy endeavor, but when we get our fill of smog and drive-thru dining, farm nostalgia creeps up on us. Even if everyone wanted to go back to the land, it would obviously not be feasible and would leave us with few wild places. TLC wants to blend the wild with places of human use and explore how cities can also contain wildlife and places to grow food. When this continent was under Native American management, there were food forests, where food actually grew in the wild and resembled an edible forest. Volunteers see the Farm as an opportunity to catalyze change toward common goals: becoming a living ecosystem of change and learning how to invite the wild back into neighborhoods and daily lives at the urban level. It is also a network of social relationships. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, or spiritual vision. They also share responsibilities and resources. The purposes of communities may include sharing resources, creating family-oriented neighborhoods, and living ecologically-sustainable lifestyles. An urban ecovillage helps to build communities in a necessary location: cities, where, according to the BBC News, 80% of the U.S. Population now lives. That number may sound scary, but urban density helps to preserve farmland and wilderness from development, and allows for public transportation and energy conservation. The ecovillage movement will reach many more people in urban areas, creating community among people who are surrounded by other people, but who often feel alone. As Portland State University Associate Professor, Jan Semensa explains, “TLC Farm represents a remarkable opportunity for residents of Portland to experience how healthfully we can inhabit the living edge between urban and wild, integrating social and natural ecologies within the city limits.” This is the first time in history that a generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. In some U.S. cities, schools are canceled due to too much pollution in the air. Just stop breathing today, kids. Our children are expected to eat slop that barely resembles real food. We have become so disconnected, many people don't even know that a potato plant has leaves. With all our technology and knowledge, we seem to have taken a step backwards. TLC Farm is trying to move forward. As Commissioner Dan Saltzman put it, “You deserve the city's thanks for successfully making partnerships to preserve a valuable green space and habitat in the Tryon Creek Watershed. Uniquely situated at the intersection of human agriculture and native ecosystems, the TLC Farm is poised with variety of local partnerships to demonstrate more sustainable approaches to urban growth that integrate people, food, and wild habitat.” Jenny Leis sees the Farm as serving three main purposes: educating the community about sustainable urban living, demonstrating ecological living techniques, and providing a forum to discuss sustainability and conservation issues. The basic idea is to live simply, like Henry Thoreau so famously wrote, but TLC Farm is no Walden Pond. One inspired volunteer said, “Seeing such a positive sustainable community in action while studying about various related practices (especially in urban settings) is so encouraging to us as we search for our own places in the environmental movement.” As the weather warms, the garden is teeming with edible plant life and the goats are producing two quarts of sweet, scrumptious milk a day. Tryon Life Community Farm is ready for summer.
Metro: William Eadie attended an open house at the Farm in the summer of 2004. He chatted about the vision of TLC, but left with little hope seeing the vision to fruition. At that point, Metro did not even have the money to help the cause; however, the vision planted itself in William's head, so he returned to the Farm after everyone else had left the open house. He became a core ally and a mentor for farm residents, helping to realistically and effectively negotiate with developers and other involved parties. In January 2006, the Metro Council contributed $100,000 towards the conservation easement on the land. Equity Trust: While negotiations were going on, Brush, a farm resident, was in contact with Equity Trust, an non-profit organization based out of Massachusetts which provides technical assistance and training for communities to gain ownership interests in the food, land and housing and related issues of institutional and public policy. They wanted to create a land trust that would be split between the land and improvements on the property. This would constrain the amount and location of additional construction on the land. With this deal, the land trust would own the lease of the farm, while the owner (i.e. TLC Farm) would get the benefits of improvements on the land for agricultural and educational purposes. Equity Trust loaned $100,000 towards the purchase of the land. City officials: Sam Adams and Dan Saltzman began talking about TLC Farm, and in October 2005, the city, state, park service, and Metro got together to discuss the possibility of official and financial support. Sam Adams was the first to state public support for the Farm. The sustainability and education model of TLC Farm was exactly what government agencies wanted, though there was a lot of uncertainty about donating to the Farm. In January 2006, the City of Portland contributed $200,000 towards the conservation easement on the land. Shorebank Pacific: Farm residents, Hope and Ty, attended a Salmon Nation gathering in 2004, and met someone there involved in Eco Trust, who referred them to the Vice President of Shorebank, Lucy Brehm, who set them up with Randall Leach. For the next year and a half, Randall helped to identify what needed to be done, such as completing a business plan and strategic plan and getting a land appraisal, and worked tirelessly on getting TLC Farm a $600,000 loan for the land acquisition. City Repair Project: City Repair is a group of citizen activists helping others construct creative living and public gathering places. Resident Jenny Leis, who was also the director of the City Repair Project, proposed that TLC Farm become a project of City Repair's, but no formal relationship was established. However, the personal connections with City Repair individuals was vital, and they became a support system for the Farm, helping with fund raising events and networking. Arnold Creek Neighborhood Association: The Association considers issues that may arise in the neighborhood, has an operations budget, and can challenge land violations without charge. Farm residents have been attending Arnold Creek meetings since 2004. Brush and the president of the association, Nancy Hand, canvassed the neighborhood to inform them about the potential development, which everyone in the community thought was a bad idea. It was valuable for TLC Farm to have the support of the Arnold Creek Neighborhood Association who awarded the farm Volunteer of the Year in 2005. Friends of Tryon Creek State Park: Friends of Tryon Creek was started in 1969 to conserve and enhance the natural resources of the park, and they first saved the park from development in 1970. Then entrance to TLC Farm is on State Park property, but Friends and residents have always been on good terms, so it was not a problem. The Friends were against development of the 7 acres of the Farm, though President Craig Johnston was skeptical about the success of the farm, so did not donate funds right away. They slowly became convinced that TLC Farm was a good idea and a good neighbor, and on January 5th the board of the Friends voted unanimously to contribute $100,000 towards the conservation easement. And so many many more wonderful people and organizations, without whom none of this would be possible!
An overview of some partners with our organization, and how we work with them.
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