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Three boards give support for farming

Three Lake Oswego advisory boards have come out strongly in support of the current farming operation at Luscher Farm.

The three boards - the Historical Resources Advisory Board, Natural Resources Advisory Board and Sustainability Advisory Board - have all sent letters to the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Advisory Board expressing support for a strong emphasis on agriculture at the farm.

This was good news for Laura Masterson, director of 47th Avenue Farms, who has been farming at Luscher for the past 10 years. Masterson spoke about the issue to PRAB recently, and she was pleased with the boards' action.

'I'm excited,' Masterson said. 'The advisory boards have really helped my job of painting a picture of the potential of having a food system, sustainability, urban agriculture and preserving history.

'All of that is possible at Luscher Farm. We'll see if the community is excited about it too.'

Masterson should soon have an answer. Kim Gilmer, director of the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Depart-ment, said that her department will soon complete a statistically valid phone survey of the public's opinion of needs at Luscher Farm.

While supporters of agriculture have been passionate, there has also been strong support for the conversion of much of the Luscher Farm property into athletic fields for burgeoning youth sports programs in Lake Oswego.

'We're in a holding pattern,' Gilmer said. 'We're doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes. We'll have to put our Luscher plan on hold because we have to finish our parks master plan first.'

While not discouraging building athletic fields in Lake Oswego, co-chairs of the three advisory boards urged PRAB to put agriculture, natural resources and education at the top of the Luscher Farm priority list.

'What HRAB supports the most is having a heritage landscape area at Luscher,' said Jeanie McGuire, long-time historic preservation activist. 'Luscher is also an excellent site for education programs all of the time.'

The HRAB letter expressed ambitions for a small museum on the Luscher Farm site, food education programs, and seeking the possibility of agriculture tourism that would include having the farm as a 'must see' attraction.

'We support community farming' McGuire said. 'We totally support Oregon Tilth and CSA (Community Service Agriculture).'

The HRAB letter expressed strong reservations about having intensive sports field use at Luscher.

'It is such a precious agricultural area,' McGuire said. 'We don't want to see it become a sporting area.'

As for the sustainability aspects of the farm, SAB co-chairman Bruce Brown said, 'We feel that having sustainable food is a very important part of Lake Oswego's future. We're not saying other things are not good, but we think the food-producing space should be maintained or even expanded.

'It seems the farm can be best utilized for agriculture. We hope the city council will study this matter in greater depth.'

For Denise Dailey of NRAB, preserving a strong local food system at Luscher is right in line with her board's goals for Lake Oswego.

NRAB came out in support of 'the highest/best use' of the farmland at Luscher, noting its excellent soil quality, gentle slope, current successful production of organic crops, and the USDA's assessment of Luscher Farm to be 'prime farmland.'

Dailey said, 'NRAB looks forward to working with PRAB, SAB, HRAB and the planning commission to develop a LAMP (Luscher Area Master Plan) that will protect, restore and enhance environmental quality and community food systems within the city.'