Portland Fermentation Festival 2017 Redux

October 31st, 2017

Nat West and Sarah West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider. Nat ALWAYS brings something interesting and experimental to the fest. So fun. This year he brought some of his ciderkin to sample. Ciderkin is made by using the traditional cidermaking technique of re-wetting the spent pomace (what Nat is holding) after the first pressing of juice is extracted from the apple. It was a bright yummy and appley sample that most festival-goers had never tried before. Thank you Nat and Sarah for always bringing your fun and wild energy and ferments!

Thank you so very much to everyone — there were hundreds of you! — who came out last week for our EIGHTH annual Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust! We had 100-plus tasty funky fermented foods and drinks to sample, smarty-pants exhibitors and attendees, all sorts of fun DIY demo’s, rooftop good vibes thanks to my fine fellow DJ Jimbo (I’ll post his 2017 playlist once he puts it up), Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and Cinder BBQ.

Thank you all for coming out for it and joining the stink! And thank you to our newest recruit who joined us as a co-organizer this year — festival friend and participant since day one Heidi Nestler of Wanpaku Natto. Heidi kicked-ass and you could feel her awesome months-long event organizing effort in many ways throughout the festival. Heidi really helped us focus on more diversity on the exhibitor floor. She got a lot of new folks to sample their yummy ferments this year and we are so grateful.

We put the Portland Fermentation Festival together every year with a shoestring budget + heaps of volunteered hours (thank you sooooo much to all of our kick-ass volunteers!) and as always we’re so grateful that Ecotrust puts up with us year after year. Thank you again Ecotrust! We love you.

We had some great coverage this year including this segment on KGW News with Christine Pitawanich and this Portland Monthly story by my friend and one of my all-time favorite editors Kelly Clarke. We’re very excited that Japan’s Elle Magazine was in attendance to cover the fest. I will shout that feature out from the rooftops once it prints. We’ve posted most of the other coverage on social media. If you’d like to keep up with local fermenty goings-on please check out our festival Facebook and Twitter pages.

Below are a whole bunch of photos from this year’s Stinkfest! If you have some great ones too please post them to the Facebook page or Twitter or Instagram them with the hashtag #portlandfermentationfestival.

Thank you, thank you, thank you and see you all again next year we hope! Stay stinky! Oh, and please let me know if I attributed anything incorrectly. Thanks!

Festival founders — the Dapper Foodists! Marty snapped this one of us a few minutes before we opened the doors. Left to right — David Barber, me and George Winborn. Year after stinky year. XO

People were lined up and chaming at the bit to get in. As always.

And once the doors opened it filled up quickly with hungry folks ready for fun and all sorts of special food and drink ferments.

Maria Llull brought her delicious fermented whole grain mustard.

Maria’s fermented mustard!

It makes me really happy that Gabe Rosen of Biwa /Noraneko comes to the festival every year. This year he made one of my favorite festival bites — freshly fried potato chips tossed in dehydrated powdered house kimchi and served with a sour cream dip blended with dehydrated flaked and powdered house sour pickles. Chip and dip dream come true!!

So fun having Thubten Comerford bring his sweet energy and super tasty fermented sour pickles, corn relish and sauerkraut to this year’s festival. They were all so good and it was really nice to have so many new, vibrant folks sampling this year. We were aiming for more non-commercial fermentation enthusiasts and we got it with Thubten and others. Love this pic.

Thubten’s tasty trio of ferments.

I am the lucky one who gets to organize the ticketing table volunteers annually and it makes me really happy to have my strong female friends volunteering as the fest welcoming committee in five shifts of two. Here are my friends Phoenix and Kelli at the lobby ticketing table’s first shift before the doors opened. XOXO

One of the first two demo’s of the night was the packed fermented nut cheese fondue with my friend Claudia Lucero pictured here. Claudia is working on a step-by-step vegan cheese book at the moment and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it publishes!

I got to try some of the vegan nut cheese fondue and it was sooooo good. Everything Claudia makes is delicious.

Festival co-organizer Heidi Nestler was doing a fermented natto demo (her biz is Wanpaku Natto) at the same time across the mezzanine. I really love that we have all of these tasty demo’s every year. Inspiring and empowering.

My youngest in the best friends realm — almost 11-year-old Kylie (my Michelle’s daughter). She loooooves the Portland Fermentation Festival. Her favorite tastes this year were Heidi’s natto and a couple of the kombuchas.

Me and Kylie before the doors opened.

And if you were wondering what those cute pink things are that we are wearing they are festival SCOBY (the host of bacteria and yeast that you use to make kombucha) pins that fest volunteers and dear friends Loly, Phoenix and Kelli dreamed up and made. So cute.

This year’s festival poster that the talented artist Tim Root designed for us — as he does every year. Headless Horseman!!

Lovely Amelie Rosseau brought her pinot noir and homemade fermented hot sauce to the festival. Thank you Amelie! So happy that you came and sampled this year.

Susan Laarman of Swarm Portland brought her tasty fermented honey! She has a few accounts in Portland but please check out her website swarmportland.org for more info. about what she does.

Close-up of Susan’s yummy fermented honey.

Photographer Shino Yanagawa (on the left) of Japan’s Elle Gourmet Magazine came and shot photos of the fest this year! Can’t wait to see them when the story publishes!

Photographer Joshua Eddings (check him out on Instagram at skyturtlestories) took this great shot on the rooftop this year. It always amazes me that we never get a rainy festival despite the fact its always in September/October. It’s always beautiful. We had ciders from Reverend Nat Cider up there, barbecue by Cinder BBQ and…

Music by DJ Jimbo. Every year my sweetie Jimbo makes us a festival playlist that cycles good vibes on the roof. Once he posts the playlist online I’ll share it on our festival social media.

Me and George taking a quick and sweet rooftop breather. We found out he can emcee from the roof and everyone can still hear him in the main hall of the festival a floor below. Hilarious. Photo by Loly.

Us earlier in the day hunting and gathering for the festival. AND getting a little sweet pick-me-up from Nuvrei which we both adore.

Festival favorite Sash Sunday of OlyKraut! We look forward to seeing Sash (she lives in Olympia) and tasting all of her awesome ferments year after year.

Really yummy fermented breads spread from Tabor Bread at SE 50th and Hawthorne. We LOVE Tabor Bread…

And John from Tabor serving them up.

Careen Stoll is another tried and true festival friend. Every year she brings her beautiful hand thrown porcelain crocks that you can purchase at various galleries and shops around town.

Careen and one of our favorite festival veteran volunteers — Marty Dooley.

SOMA brought all sorts of tasty kombuchas this year. Love that they had kombucha taps to serve from.

This was a really, really yummy fest sample — Cultured Manifestation’s Yummus. Hummus made with fermented garlic, lime kefir whey, cumin, sumac and more.

Made by these two! Val Pena and Paul Castoral of Cultured Manifestations.

We loved having Madi Kay of Imperfect Produce at the festival this year to talk with attendees all about the good work that the company does. Please check them out at imperfectproduce.com if you haven’t already. Inspiring.

KGW’s Christine Pitawanich came and did a live segment in the main tasting hall at 7pm and we had fun showing her different ferments and taking her around. You can check out the segment at the link in my post above.

We first took her to the Choi’s Kimchi table with Matt and Chong Choi and Elmo. Choi’s is my very favorite kimchi. Matt and his mom come to the fest every year. We love them.

We also took them by Fumiko and Jason’s Obon PDX table. Fumiko was sampling their delicious tofu misozuke.

We tried to make it to the Jorinji Miso table with all of these fine folks including Earnest and Yuri Migaki but they were too popular and their table was too crowded. Earnest and Yuri are my dear friends and I love them and their miso so much! If you haven’t tried it before get some! Photo by Loly Leblanc.

A close up of their misos. They made all sorts of tasty miso treats throughout the night including white miso granola, roasted miso chicken and miso dressing, tonjiri with red miso, pork and winter vegetables plus miso soup. YUM!

Heidi Nestler at her Wanpaku Natto table — natto sampling (navy bean natto with mustard and natto kimchi) and educating.

Heidi’s felted SCOBY looks A LOT like her new Wanpaku Natto logo. Cute!

Another festival friend year after year — Colin Franger of Blue Bus Cultured Foods with all of his tasty treats.

Tina Johnson giving her super informative demo all about fermenting and curing olives.

Tina’s cute sign.

Anja Spence and Bill Jones of Miss Zumstein’s Bakery and Coffee Shop sampled their bright and delicious house fermented hot sauces. So yummy!!

John Westdahl of Squirrel & Crow Tempeh serving up his fried chickepea and sunflower seed tempeh along with his split green pea tempeh aka tempea ;

Festival ticketing volunteers Loly and Kelli (thank you also to Jess, Jemma, Phoenix, Michele K, Michelle G and Stacy!!) enjoying the festival fun.

Brian Shaw of Oregon Brineworks serving up the wild and beautiful array of super tasty ferments that he and Connie always bring to the festival. I helped at his table a bit under the guise of “helping” — really I just wanted to be closer to all of those yummy samples 😉

And a sweet goodbye from all of the fine folks at SakeOne in Forest Grove who came out and poured all sorts of lovely sakes. They sent me home with a bottle of their pear sake. Happy.

And, as always, the final festival shot goes to George Winborn — co-founder/co-organizer extraordinaire. The final fest pic is usually of him wearing the shoulder strapped vacuum pack but I guess Ecotrust finally got rid of that vacuum so now no vacuum pack. Still so cute 😉

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out this year for our EIGHTH annual Portland Fermentation Festival. This year felt really special. I think we all needed to get together and have some good old fashioned stinky fun. I know I did. Thank you and see you next year. Happy fermenting!

Northwest Fresh Seafood, Lentil Underground, Cuvee Weekend

February 25th, 2015

Still tickets left!

There are three tasty events coming up — two of which I’m directly involved in — that I want to tell you about. I also want to acknowledge that I do realize that I haven’t done a Yard Fresh installment in far too long. One excuse, over the summer and early fall I got my kitchen remodeled by my amazingly talented friends at St. Johns Design Build (see some photos of my kitchen remodel here!), beyond that life has been full. Anyway, I haven’t forgotten about that series and I’ll add to it again soon enough. For now, here are some upcoming food/drink events I’m hoping that you might come to and if not that you will help spread the word about. Thanks!

Saturday, March 7 @ 2-6pm at Northwest Fresh Seafood
Newberg, Oregon

A month ago Zach Elliott of the Newberg seafood market Northwest Fresh Seafood asked John Gorham and me if we’d come out to the market for a spring food/drink/books event and we agreed right away. John and I are both seafood lovers and always up for a fun excuse to get out to Oregon wine country. The result is an afternoon and evening event hosted by these great folks with oysters, bubbles, signed copies of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. AND Food Lover’s Guide to Portland, live music by Kent Smith and a Q&A with John and I ALL for $65. I hope you’ll come out for it and even if you can’t I hope that you might help spread the word. It’s going to be great. Tickets are available here.

Monday, March 9 @ 7pm at Powell’s
Portland, Oregon
Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America READING

Working as a book publicist at Hawthorne Books, and having covered food and food books since 2003, review copies often come my way. They’re usually from Chelsea Green, which is one of my favorite publishing houses, but sometimes they’re from other publishers — in this case Gotham Books. Liz Carlisle is coming to Portland mid-March for a reading for her book Lentil Underground and if you care about food as much as I do I think you’re going to want to go to this Powell’s City of Books reading. I’ve only begun reading it and I’m inspired by the depth of Carlisle’s research into renegade farmers and sustainable agriculture as well as the tenacity of her subjects and their dedication to new ag. business and cropping systems and a sustainable ag. future. GENTLE PORTLAND LENTILS, please pick up a copy of the book and come out for Carlisle’s Powell’s reading and become a part of the Lentil Underground! If my endorsement isn’t enough…

“What does it take to farm sustainably–and make a living? Liz Carlisle tells the engrossing story of the ‘audacity rich, but capital poor’ Montana farmers who thought lentils were the answer and stuck with them until proved right. Anyone who dreams of starting a farm or wants to know how organic farmers can overcome the obstacles they face will be inspired by this book.” –Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Look at that fuzzy gentle lentil behind the book! Rubin is my favorite photo bomber.

Saturday, March 21st @ Noon at The Allison Inn & Spa
Newberg, Oregon
Cuvee Weekend PANEL

In celebration of Women’s History Month The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg is hosting an inaugural Cuvee Weekend on the weekend of March 21st. Couples are invited to purchase weekend packages and attend everything from a cooking demo. by Kristen Murray of Portland’s Maurice and a 4-course winemakers’ dinner with Tamara Murphy of Seattle’s Terra Plata to a guided vineyard tour and a panel discussion on women in food on Saturday, the 21st with me, Kristen Murray, Tamara Murphy and Veronica Vaga of Deschutes Brewery. Please help spread the word!

The Allison Inn & Spa rated #1 Hotel Spa in the Continental US by Travel + Leisure.

Zenger Farm CSA Accepts Food Stamps

April 1st, 2013

SNAP recipient Jennifer Dynes and her daughter, Annie, picking up their Zenger Farm Share. Photo courtesy of Zenger Farm.

There are so many great food events in Portland and lately I haven’t had time to go to many. One of my favorites of the past several year’s has been Friends of Family Farmers’ free and open to the public InFARMations held at Holocene every second Tuesday night of the month. The last one held featured Zenger Farm’s new SNAP for CSA toolkit and I wish I could have gone and learned more about it. Here’s the gist straight from the source:

Zenger Farm is launching a new toolkit to help Oregon CSA farmers begin accepting SNAP dollars (formerly known as Food Stamps) for their member shares. This is a key component in the fight for better access to good food for all.

Fast facts:

• SNAP brings more than $1 billion in federal food money to Oregon each year.
• Zenger Farm Shares was one of the first Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) in Oregon to accept SNAP.
• While the traditional CSA model supports farmers by assisting with the upfront costs of farming, that same upfront capital investment is often a barrier for households on limited incomes.
• In 2011, Zenger Farm received a grant to develop a toolkit to help Oregon CSA farmers begin accepting SNAP dollars. This toolkit will be rolled out at community meetings and conferences across the state, as well as through online webinars in 2013.

More info about the toolkit and program
More about Zenger Farm Shares

Oregon Mint Pt. 4

January 30th, 2012

If you aren't in the Portland area or visiting anytime soon you can buy Steven Smith Tea online here.

This is my last installment for the Oregon mint story. This section was going to be a sidebar for the print version…

Peppermint isn’t the only mint…

Sure, peppermint takes the cake in Oregon, but spearmint is a close second in terms of in-state cultivation. Two main differences between the mints are that peppermint plants are taller with bigger leaves, and peppermint has a stronger flavor and aroma than the sweeter, lighter tasting and smelling spearmint.

Steven Smith of Steven Smith Teamaker, a boutique tea company specializing in full leaf, small batch tea with a retail shop on Northwest Thurman, has been working with the same local spearmint growers since the mid-1970s — Don, Monty and Marvin Mills of Mills Mint Farm in Stanfield, Oregon in Northeastern Oregon. The Mills family was amongst the first in Oregon to cultivate spearmint and peppermint.

In the mid-70s Smith was a co-owner of Stash Tea before it was sold in 1993 to Yamamotoyama in Japan. At that time Smith and the other Stash owners and employees purchased field run mint (unprocessed mint directly from the farm) from the Mills family and cleaned it in what is now !Oba! Restaurante but which was then Stash Tea headquarters. They used the mint for their tea and also sold mint to Lipton Tea and Celestial Seasonings.

Says Smith, “We cleaned mint there and stored some of it across the street in the Maddox Transfer building before they called the area the Pearl district – I think it should have been named the Mint District for the way it smelled back then.”

After selling Stash in the early 1990s Smith started Tazo Tea in his home kitchen which he sold to Starbucks in 1999 and continued to work for until 2006. In late 2009, Smith opened his newest tea endeavor — Steven Smith Teamaker — in the brick building next to the former Carlyle Restaurant on Northwest Thurman Street.

All of Smith’s spearmint to this day comes from Mills Mint Farm which cultivates 400 acres of spearmint annually with minimal inputs thanks to regular crop rotation (corn, wheat and peas) and intensive hand weeding. If you’d like to try Mills’ local leaves they are blended in Smith’s Fez tea — a combination of Mao Feng China green tea, Oregon spearmint and Australian lemon myrtle leaves.

When asked why Smith still works with Mills Mint Farm he answers succinctly, “Flavor, appearance, aroma, overall approach to business, and long standing relationship.”

Who can argue with that?

Steven Smith Teamaker
1626 NW Thurman St.
Portland, OR

Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 2 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 3 Oregon Mint

Oregon Mint Pt. 3

January 16th, 2012

Butler Farms peppermint oil packs a punch.

Peppermint oil distillation takes place immediately after mint harvest at Butler Farms. The diesel powered boiler is the heart of the operation. It creates the steam that travels through the manifold and stainless steel lines into the just harvested mint hay tubs. The mint oil is extracted by the steam and channeled through stainless pipes to the condenser. As the steam cools in the condenser it liquefies and collects in the receding cans. Then by virtue of the fact that oil is lighter than water the oil naturally separates and is poured off into barrels.

For every acre of peppermint that the Butlers cultivate, they process roughly 90 to 100 pounds of peppermint oil, which translates to 40,000 pounds of peppermint oil a year. It takes a mere pound of the extremely potent oil to flavor 55,000 sticks of gum.

There are currently 21,000 acres devoted to mint oil production in Oregon grown by 150 farms, according to Bryan Ostlund of the Oregon Mint Commission. Nearly 70 percent of all peppermint grown in-state, in fact, is distilled into peppermint oil. That’s a lot of gum.

Tim Butler with a tiny jar of the mint oil that his farm produces and distills...

Of course, it doesn’t all become an ingredient in gum. Flavor houses purchase Butler Farms’ peppermint oil from a handler, and in turn sell it to oral care, candy and medical companies such as Colgate, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble and Pfizer.

Ostlund says that the recent history of Oregon mint oil production isn’t entirely rosy. Due to rapid changes in the retail business in the 1990s, “the pressure was on, and still is on, to cheapen products,” he notes. According to Ostlund, many of the older flavor house dependent companies continue to value high quality oil, especially with their older products particularly food and candy products. But, he adds, “Companies with new products coming into production, generally are not putting as high of a priority on quality ingredients. That’s usually when cheaper and inferior foreign mint oil comes into the equation. Essentially, companies are dumbing down their ingredients.”

Where Butler farms peppermint turns into peppermint oil.

The Willamette Valley has the highest flavor profile quality of peppermint oil in state. It is exceptionally bright and distinct with a nice level of menthofuran (a potent component of mint oil) which is why companies such as Atkinson Candy Company in Lufkin, Texas use it almost exclusively. Other Oregon mint production regions generally produce mint that doesn’t stand alone and requires blending.

Peppermint oil from India, China and South America is often significantly cheaper than domestic peppermint oil but that is of inferior quality. Says Butler, “It all comes down to the consumer. The consumer tells the Wrigleys and Wal-Marts and Costcos what they want; and the superstores tell the flavor houses what they want. Sure they want quality but they also want it cheap. That’s the way it is with all agricultural commodities.”

Despite this sort of cost-cutting and disregard for quality Butler Farms has no plans to slow down its mint oil production. And why should they? According to Bruce Pokarney, director of communication for Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon is the second leading US producer of peppermint and peppermint is ranked #15 of all Oregon commodities in value. Tim Butler is proud to cultivate such an important Oregon commodity. If in upcoming years we as a state can find a way to market Oregon-grown mint oil as a stand alone ingredient these numbers and percentages will likely grow. Maybe we’ll even become the number one peppermint producer in the country.

Stay tuned for the last installment of this story.
Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 2 Oregon Mint

Oregon Mint Pt. 2

December 26th, 2011

Butler Farms in Stayton, Oregon in December 2010.

Although peppermint grows easily in Oregon it has its problems, like most crops, when cultivated on a large scale. Butler Farms wages a continuous battle with pests–everything from spider mites, cutworm, crane fly and nemotodes to symphylans, mint rust and verticillium wilt. One year, they lost 25 percent of their peppermint crop to mint rust. Mint rust, a fungus that blisters and destroys mint leaves, took Butler Farms from profitable to breakeven in one short week.

In other words, says Butler, “You don’t just throw it out there and hope for the best, because there wouldn’t be much.”

In the Willamette Valley, peppermint is perennial. It awakens from its winter dormancy in late January to early February. At that point, Tim Butler goes out into his fields with a winter herbicide spray to keep the weeds at bay.

By the first of March, the peppermint shoots are visible and growing quickly but Butler’s first fertilizer and fungicide applications don’t happen until several weeks later in mid-April. Butler then crosses his fingers, hoping that insecticide application isn’t necessary.

Throughout the year the Butlers monitor their fields with integrated pest management. An agronomy professional scouts the farm testing for nemotodes and other detrimental insects. Depending on the results, some fields get insecticide application while others don’t.

From April on, the peppermint is hungry and thirsty as it grows at breakneck speed. In the summer it’s irrigated with roughly an inch to an inch and a half of water weekly and fertilized heavily as well.

Early-to-mid-August at Butler Farms means peppermint harvest. They swath it, put it in rows, chop it, and pick it up with a harvester (similar to alfalfa, clover and corn harvest). From the field the mint goes into eight- to nine-ton mint hay tubs which are taken to the mint still by truck.

Stay tuned for the next two installments of this story.

Stay tuned for the next two installments of this story.
Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 3 Oregon Mint

Oregon Mint Pt. 1

December 19th, 2011

Edible Portland sent this lovely card out to folks for the holidays.

So even though I’m pretty stinking busy right now working on the Toro Bravo Cookbook as well as being an editor and publicist for Hawthorne Books I’m still freelance food writing. I love covering our local food culture.

I wrote a story about Oregon mint for Edible Portland a while back and due to space constraints it didn’t make it as planned into this winter’s issue of magazine that just published. Despite getting nixed something cool happened to my story. See that card above? Mary Kate McDevitt took my story — followed up on some of the facts and figures — and made it into a beautiful holiday card for Edible Portland that I and probably many of you recently received in the mail. Literary transubstantiation!

Since I interviewed a lot of great people for my mint story I thought it would be a shame to not get it out there so with Edible Portland’s permission I’m posting it for you here in several installments and with a fair few photos. Hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the first installment…

There’s an old poster of Reba McIntyre push-pinned to the bulletin board of Tim Butler’s small fluorescent-lit farm office in Stayton, Oregon. Just below sit two small, mustard-sized jars of oil–peppermint oil. Like most oil, it doesn’t look like much: It is pretty clear with a faint straw hue. But when Butler opens a jar, a minty aroma immediately fills the room. The smell is intoxicating.

Butler Farms in Stayton, Oregon — just south of Salem — is a little less than a decade shy of becoming a century farm. Tim Butler’s maternal grandparents purchased the farm and its then 160 acres in 1918. Butler’s mom grew up on the farm; Tim, now 61 years old, grew up on the farm with his siblings; and Tim’s children, who are all adults now, grew up here. These days Butler, two of his brothers and a nephew run 2,100-acre Butler Farms. Tim’s wife, Joanie, is the farm bookkeeper.

Peppermint is integral to Butler Farms. They cultivate 400-plus acres of it annually, in addition to various vegetable crops, and every last bit is distilled on premises into peppermint oil. They began growing peppermint in 1995 after learning of a neighbor’s success.

“That’s typical of farmers,” says Butler. “You watch what your neighbor’s doing. If he’s successful at it you think, ‘Well I can do that too.’”

The Butlers are not alone in Oregon mint cultivation. The state is second in the nation in terms of peppermint cultivation (a very close second to Washington) and has seven main cultivation regions: the Willamatte Valley, Klamath Basin (including Susanville, Northern California and Tulelake), Madras, Hermiston, Ontario, Klatskanie and La Grande. The Madras and Hermiston areas focus primarily on peppermint leaf production while the Willamette Valley specializes almost entirely on peppermint oil production…

Stay tuned for the next three installments of this story.
Read Pt. 2 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 3 Oregon Mint

Voodoo Vintners & Montinore Estate

November 7th, 2011

My friend Karen checking out the cow horn stuffed with *@#! at Montinore Estate.

In early September I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the Hardy Plant Society’s Kitchen Gardening Group outings. I’ve been to other events with this group and they’re great. You might remember this talk all about grapes that I went to last spring.

For September’s outing we met at Montinore Estate vineyard and winery just outside of Forest Grove. We waited in the vineyard parking lot — it was a beautiful day — until everyone arrived and then moved into the tasting room where we met Montinore owner and vintner Rudy Marchesi and his wife Susan Fichter. Lucky for us they took us on a tour of the 230+ acre vineyard that Rudy’s owned since 2005. (He owns 30+ additional acres at other area farms.) Here’s a great article in The Oregonian all about Rudy and Susan’s passion for food and drink.

Check out Katherine Cole’s book that came out this summer that features Montinore Estate — Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers — if you haven’t already. I wrote about Cole’s book and some of her upcoming book events and wine tastings in last week’s Willamette Week.

During the Montinore tour Rudy taught us all about biodynamic farming and it was inspiring. I worked on a biodynamic farm in Spain for several months in 1996 through WWOOF and it was a trip down memory lane for me listening to him describe and sometimes demonstrate various biodynamic practices.

On biodynamic farms cow horns, such as the one above, are packed every year with cow manure, buried and overwintered until the spring when they’re dug up and mixed with water in a vessel shaped like a pregnant woman’s belly. I got the job of stirring that shit so to speak and then applying it to the fields of the culinary herb farm that I worked on. Biodynamic practices are very unique and from my limited experience they seem to work.

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate talking with the Hardy Plant Society's Kitchen Gardening Group about biodynamic farming.

The group taking in the scenery and learning the history of Montinore Estate.

Where water turns into wine at Montinore...

It wouldn't be a wine tour without a tasting in Montinore Estate's beautiful tasting room.

I learned a lot during this tour including:

The name Montinore comes from the original ranch owner who was from Montana before he moved to Oregon. Get it? Mont-in-Ore.

Because of all the moisture this growing season mold and mildew have been a constant struggle in vineyards. It’s been a challenging and expensive season.

Rudolf Steiner was a rad dude. He’s the grandfather of biodynamic agriculture as well as Waldorf education.

The reason Rudy got into biodynamic practices…phylloxera. An area of the vineyard was destroyed quickly by this pest so Rudy reevaluated growing practices and in 2001 (before he owned the vineyard) stopped all use of herbicides.

In 2003, Rudy took a biodynamic course in New York while still farming back east and in 2005 he bought Montinore Estate. In 2008 it was certified as biodynamic.

There are 25 or so biodynamic vineyards in Oregon but only seven are certified.

Hardy Plant Society Oregon

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon
503.359.5012 ext 3
Open daily 11am-5pm

Buy Katherine Cole’s book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers
Read my review of Voodoo Vintners in Willamette Week

Ecotrust’s 20th Birthday Bash! Ticket Giveaway!

September 6th, 2011

Ecotrust's birthday bash! Ticket giveaway below!

If you don’t know Ecotrust then I’m thinking that you’re new to this blog. I love Ecotrust and really admire all of the incredible work that they do. If you have a second please read what they’re up to with one of my favorite Ecotrust programs — the Food and Farms Program. They’ve also hosted our Portland Fermentation Festival from the get-go and will be hosting this year’s third annual PFF! We couldn’t do it without them.

Ecotrust is turning 20 years old this year and this organization knows how to work hard as well as play hard which is why they’re throwing a huge party and you’re invited! Don’t worry though, just because even though Ecotrust is only turning 20 this year you can still drink while she sips her her Shirley Temple. Here are the details:

Saturday, September 10th
Doors open at 6pm
All ages
721 NW 9th Ave., Portland

Tickets are $125 per person and are available here.
Price of admission includes light fare by Artemis Foods and two complimentary tickets for local beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Check out the tasty food & drink menu.

Straight from Ecotrust:

Not your traditional fundraising event, we will be joined by the fabulous Storm Large for a full outdoor concert, and share delicious local bites and drinks throughout the evening. A portion of your ticket price will help us continue to create economic opportunity, social equity and environmental well-being in our region for the next 20 years. Your tax-deductible contribution has enormous impact: for every $100 donated to Ecotrust, we create more than $500 in capital for local economies, communities and nature from Alaska to California. Join us, and help businesses, people and nature thrive.


And now to something special for all you lovely readers of my blog — I’ve got TWO tickets to give away here to ONE lucky person. I’m doing this contest like I do all contests here. I’m writing down a number in my handy dandy notebook and that numbered commenter takes the cake — well tickets. Keep in mind that if you win you need to email me your name and your guest’s name as well as both of your email addresses so that Ecotrust can email you your comp. tickets.

So here’s what I want to know. I’m keeping it simple so that I don’t stump any chumps. What’s your favorite vegetable this summer and how have you been enjoying eating/cooking it? Comment away! Stay tuned for the middle of the week when I announce the lucky winners!

Portland Growers Alliance

August 8th, 2011

Portland Growers Alliance at the Monday Pioneer Courthouse Square Portland Farmers Market.

A few weeks ago Portlander Lauren Morse contacted me to see if I might put something up about Portland Growers Alliance, a marketing collective for the farmers of Mercy Corps Northwest’s Agriculture Project in conjunction with Grow Portland.

I’m a big fan of this Mercy Corps Northwest project and, in fact, I’ve written about it in the past for the Portland Tribune and on this blog. So, I said, of course, but why don’t you write something and I’ll put it up since I’m clearly not the expert. (Lauren also wrote a more personal blog post about Portland Growers Alliance here if you want to learn more.) Without further ado, here are some thoughts and photos from Lauren Morse, lead marketer for Portland Growers Alliance…

As a consumer, do you ever feel overwhelmed by the abundance of smells and sounds at Portland’s bustling farmers markets? Imagine being a farmer there. Many shoppers do not realize the underlying steps required to orchestrate these markets. Farmers must reserve a stall, arrange transportation to the market, and communicate with customers. For many emerging farmers in the Pacific Northwest these simple steps are an impassable barrier.

The Growers Alliance is a new marketing collective designed to help emerging farmers succeed. It was founded in 2010 as a partnership between Mercy Corps Northwest’s Agriculture Project and Grow Portland.

Mercy Corps Northwest’s Agriculture Project provides refugees, immigrants, and new American growers with the access to land and supplies needed to begin market gardens. Grow Portland teams with Mercy Corps Northwest to provide the trucking and marketing services for growers to sell their produce locally. All growers are welcome to volunteer at markets and CSA pick-ups, but the Growers Alliance relies on its lead American growers to do the bulk of produce marketing.

An increasing number of growers in the Pacific Northwest are immigrants, refugees, or beginning American farmers. Though they make up a necessary component of local agriculture, these growers often lack the English skills, business training, or access to trucking necessary to sell their produce to direct markets. (Direct markets refer to any sales that occur directly between the grower and the consumer.) Selling through direct markets, however, guarantees that growers will get the best price for their product. But what if you lack the English skills to communicate with consumers? Or what if your individual plot is too small to have your own CSA or farmers market stand? This is where the Portland Growers Alliance steps in.

This year the Alliance is composed of Nepalese, Bhutanese, Slavic, Burmese, Somali, and American growers. Though their individual plots are less than an acre each, collectively they are able to sell produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, two Portland Farmers Markets (Saturday at PSU and Monday at Pioneer Square), and a few local restaurants. Visit the Growers Alliance
to learn how you can support these growers.

Most important to their marketing efforts is recruiting members for fall CSA shares. Fall shares run for 14 weeks from late August through November. Members can pick up at Mercy Corps Northwest in Old Town/Chinatown or the Warehouse Café in Southeast’s Brooklyn neighborhood. Sign up here! Contact Lauren for more information at lmorse at growportland dot org or 503.858.0216.

Somali growers of Mercy Corps Northwest's Agriculture Program at Westmoreland Garden.

Portland Growers Alliance CSA boxes being filled in Southeast Portland.


Contact Lauren Morse for more information at lmorse at growportland dot org or call 503.858.0216
Visit the Portland Growers Alliance booth at the Pioneer Courthouse Square (Mondays) and Portland State University (Saturdays) Portland Farmers Markets.
Sign up for the fall CSA here