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Portland, Oregon: Diggable City - Grad Students Locate CG-ableSites

  • Subject: [cg] Portland, Oregon: Diggable City - Grad Students Locate CG-ableSites
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 02 May 2006 13:26:34 -0400

TribTown: City to community gardeners: Dig this
Grad students aid effort to turn empty spaces into gardens
By ANNA JOHNS     Issue date: Tue, May 2, 2006
The Tribune

   A handful of people at City Hall credit Sellwood resident Sheila Strachan
with an idea that could lead to more community gardens in Portland.
   Though Strachan wonbt take credit for the idea, she does admit to
badgering city officials on a monthly basis to let her and her neighbors turn
a piece of city land into a community garden.
   bThis site seemed the most promising,b Strachan said of a
100-by-100-foot lot on the corner of Southeast 21st Avenue and Harney Street.
The open space was mostly grass, which served as a buffer between nearby
bungalows and the large Bureau of Environmental Services pump on the far
corner of the lot.
   When the transformation from a useless grass space to the Sellwood
Community Garden was finally complete in 2003, Strachan made a presentation to
very enthusiastic City Council members.
   bIt was like light bulbs went on over their heads,b Strachan said.
   Commissioner Dan Saltzman requested a citywide study to discover other
city-owned lots that could be transformed into community gardens. His staff
enlisted the help of Urban Studies and Planning graduate students from
Portland State University.
   The city inventory, called the Diggable City, identified 289 spaces that
may be suitable for community gardens, nurseries, farmers markets and even
small urban farms. Last year, the City Council adopted the report from PSU,
which recommended making urban agriculture a planning priority in Portland.
Now, the citybs Office of Sustainable Development is launching three pilot
   bIbm digging deeper into what the best possible use is for the
individual properties,b said Steve Cohen, Food Policy and Programs manager
for the city.

   Other roles for urban digs
   One pilot program is a community garden that may end up being one of
Commissioner Randy Leonardbs so-called hydroparks, which will open up Water
Bureau land to recreation. A location currently under consideration is at
Southeast 117th Avenue and Multnomah Street in the Hazelwood neighborhood.
Whether it goes forward depends primarily on neighborhood interest.
   bIt would be the first community garden east of Southeast 82nd,b Cohen
said. bThat East Portland area is very underserved when it comes to
community gardens.b
   Another project includes expanding the experiential education opportunities
onto a lot adjacent to Zenger Farms, a nonprofit education farm at Southeast
117th Avenue and Foster Road.
   The third project is a native plants nursery run by Verde, an environmental
job training organization that is a spinoff of Hacienda Community Development
Corp., a low-income housing organization.
   bThe nursery will provide plant material and labor used in wetland
restoration,b said Alan Hipolito, director of Verde, who is working with
Cohen to find a location for the nursery. bWebre trying to play a strong
role in distributing environmental skills to people who need the jobs.b
   While most of the inventory focuses on locations for community gardens b
which currently have a waiting list of about 400 people b PSU researchers
also found larger sites that could house urban farms similar to 47th Avenue
Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture farm at 6632 S.E. 47th Ave.
   Mike Paine, a CSA farmer in Yamhill who served as a consultant on the
inventory project, said it takes only three to five acres to feed 50 to 100
   bThere are a lot of farms out there that have farm managers who are in a
place where theybd like to start their own farm,b Paine said. bBut the
cost of land precludes it, as does going 40 miles outside the city they want
to serve.b

   Knowing more about what you eat
   When talking about the advantages of expanding community gardens, farmers
markets and urban farms, the people involved in the Diggable City project talk
a lot about building community and about food security, which is having
universal access to healthy food at all times.
   bBut no one is making the glorious or audacious claim that something like
the Diggable City could free the city from food insecurity,b Paine said.
   bIt gets into this whole idea of knowing where your food comes from,b
said Paul Rosenbloom, one of the PSU researchers.
   Currently, therebs no funding in place to expand urban agriculture onto
city lots.
   bPart of the goal is to find the opportunities and then work with
neighbors and friends groups to create opportunities,b Saltzman said.
bItbs a case-by-case basis, as citizens initiate interest.b
   Information about the Diggable City project can be found at
www.diggablecity.org or by purchasing a 22-minute video from the PSU School of
Urban Studies and Planning, 506 S.W. Mill St.
    Email Anna Johns

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