Photo courtesy of Maxwell PR
PORTLAND — Zenger Farm, a former dairy that has become a training ground for urban farmers and a link to healthy local food for some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, broke ground this past week on a 6,600 square-foot education center, commercial kitchen and office.
The $2.3 million project (http://zengerfarm.org/index.php?page=grange), largely funded through donations, represents both a statement and a pivot point for Zenger Farm. While the organization will continue to train beginning farmers and to grow food, it will expand its youth education programs by 80 percent and serve as an entrepreneurial “incubator” for start-up food businesses.
Adding the economic development aspect to Zenger’s work marks a “whole new era” for the organization, Executive Director Jill Kuehler said.
To mark Zenger’s enhanced community presence, the building will be called the Urban Grange.
Unlike the Oregon casino developers who unsuccessfully tried to hijack the trademarked Grange name a few years ago, Zenger Farm sought the Grange’s blessing and received it.
Leroy Watson, trademark protection manager for the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, confirmed that Zenger has a license to use the name in conjunction with the new facility.
“Their mission to provide farm training, education and food production training to their largely urban customer base corresponds well with the historic mission of the National Grange,” Watson said in an email.
Construction is expected to begin in two weeks, with completion anticipated for spring 2015. Kuehler said about $2 million has already been raised, including major funding from food companies such as Bob’s Red Mill, New Seasons and Bridgetown Natural Foods. The Meyer Memorial Trust and M.J. Murdock Trust also are primary contributors. DECA Architecture donated its time for an initial design. The construction contractor is B&G Builders.
The 16-acre farm, along Foster Road in outer Southeast Portland, originally was part of a 320-acre donation land claim and eventually became a dairy operated by the Zenger family. It’s owned now by the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services, which purchased it as part of a plan to protect the Johnson Creek watershed. In 1999, Friends of Zenger Farm developed a master plan and entered into a 50-year lease with the city.
The farm operates a farmer’s market in Portland’s low-income Lents neighborhood, offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) food program, conducts a youth program and trains interns to be farmers.