Lack of public land brings halt

A popular program offering organic vegetables to local families is in its last year at Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego, due to a lack of land for other city projects.

Lake Oswego Parks Director Kim Gilmer said the city would end its relationship with the 47th Avenue Farm in 2007. The company partners with the Lake Oswego Parks Department for the Community Supported Agriculture program.

CSA occupies 10 acres of agricultural land at Luscher Farm, growing more than 200 varieties of organic vegetables. The crops are available to individuals or families who purchase summer and winter shares in the program.

Around 80 shares were sold last summer and 55 winter shares were purchased this past season. The CSA has grown since its launch at Luscher Farm three years ago and recently received a national award for City Livability.

Laura Masterson, owner of the 47th Avenue Farm, could not be reached for comment for this story.

But in a letter to the city in June, Masterson said the program currently supplies vegetables to about 300 families. At that time, according to the letter, contract negotiations between farm operators and the city were eight months in the works and still a deal had not been reached by June 13. In the letter, Masterson urged a long-term contract for the CSA and said a planned move of the Luscher Farm dog park could conflict with agricultural investments on some of the land.

'… this issue clearly illustrates the larger need for a new contract that outlines expectations for both the city and the CSA farm. Without the certainty and security of a long term lease, we simply cannot make the improvements and investments needed to keep the farm running,' Masterson wrote.

Gilmer said the city couldn't commit to the 10-year contract requested by 47th Avenue Farm.

'We've talked about do you tie up 10 acres of land out there that has been master-planned for other uses … We decided we couldn't do that because the public, over the next 10 years, will likely have needs we'll need to use that property for,' Gilmer said.

A broader look at Luscher Farm's future is planned for later this summer. The work will aid planning for a turf field on Luscher Farm land along Stafford Road. That project will involve moving the dog park to the north of the 90-acre Luscher Farm complex.

Neither effort appears to affect the CSA in the short term, but the redesign appears to have brought future programming into question. As the growing season rolls on, share purchasers will still receive a portion of the vegetables picked each week, along with recipes.

A firm date for the program's end was not known at press time.

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