Urban farmer Masterson in line for Martha Stewart honor
by: Submitted, 
Laura Masterson, owner of 47th Avenue Farm and manager of Lake Oswego’s Luscher Farm CSA, is a finalist in Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers contest.

When Laura Masterson decided she wanted to become a farmer, she took inventory of her assets for meeting that goal.

It was not a long list.

'I had nothing you needed to be a farmer,' Masterson said. 'I had no land, I had no experience, I hadn't grown up on a farm.'

But as it turned out, Masterson had enough. She had a dream.

That is why she is among the 11 finalists for The Martha Stewart Dreamers To Doers Contest.

That means Masterson, owner of 47th Avenue Farm in Portland and manager at Lake Oswego's Luscher Farm, will be appearing on national television on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m. on KATU (ABC, Channel 2) in Portland.

Stewart, America's queen of home entertaining, will give a grand prize of $10,000 to the winner. Which would enable Masterson to dream even bigger.

'I was astonished,' Masterson said of hearing that Stewart had chosen her as a finalist. 'Every one of the 11 finalists has an amazing story. I had no idea it would happen to me.'

Masterson can thank her aunt for the big chance. She read about the contest in Martha Stewart Magazine and immediately thought of her nice niece Laura.

'My aunt thought I would be perfect,' Masterson said. 'She wrote to them about the farm and the horses and how I made it happen.'

That letter was enough to convince Martha Stewart about Masterson's qualifications.

But Masterson didn't arrive at this point by only dreaming. She did it with willpower and sheer hard work.

In 1996 she honed up for her career by turning her yard into a large garden, then she began farming in earnest by talking a lot of her friends into joining her project and by leasing land all over this region. She achieved her goal.

'I just wanted to do it,' Masterson said. 'I took what came my way and figured things out as I went along.'

Still, Masterson spread herself pretty thin, even for someone as young, strong, smart and dedicated as she was.

'I was farming at six places in three counties,' Masterson said.

But she finally narrowed down her operation to three farms in two counties, and she really achieved a breakthrough four years ago when she received a contract from the city of Lake Oswego to farm 10 acres at Luscher Farm. The move made Masterson truly 'an urban farmer.'

'Farming in the city is amazing,' Masterson said. 'I love the act of growing food and I would do it anyhow, anywhere. But it is so much more fun when you know the people you're growing for.

'Sometimes when you're working so hard you forget how beautiful vegetables are and how good they taste. Then you see how much the people here appreciate the farm being here.'

That's a lot of people. Masterson now has about 200 subscribers for produce grown at Luscher Farm and a long waiting list of people wanting to sign up. She has made the farm a happening place with such moves as bringing in beautiful Belgian draft horses and hosting a delegation from China that was interested in organic farming.

Working with new Lake Oswego city recreation supervisor Jan Wirtz, Masterson anticipates much, much more.

'There is so much potential here,' Masterson said.

Now, Masterson is set to fly to New York City on Nov. 5 for a dinner with the Martha Stewart Foundation and to be interviewed on the Martha Stewart Radio Show. But even if Martha Stewart does not put her arm around Masterson's shoulders and hand her a big, fat check, Masterson believes she will have accomplished a lot.

'It will be so nice to get national press for local farmers and community-supported agriculture in Portland,' Masterson said. 'We've got all of these neat things we're doing, and hopefully this will inspire other people to do them.

'Farming in the city is amazing. People are excited about local farms and urban farming.'

Truly, Laura Masterson is unique. But she wants there to be more Laura Mastersons.

'I would like to lay the groundwork for this to be a repeatable event,' she said. 'I want to create more opportunity, so my dream is not anomalous.'

While Martha Stewart will be picking the grand prize winner for the Dreamers To Doers Contest, there will also be a People's Choice Award in which the public can vote. Local people can vote for Laura Masterson by going to the Web site http://www.marthastew .

To find out more about 47th Avenue Farm, go to the Web site .

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