Saturday tour in Forest Grove will connect people to their food sources

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Now that Richard White and Charlene Murdock-White have retired from their Seattle-based specialty food broker business, they focus their efforts to their Forest Grove acre, Nana Cardoon, where they grow almost all their food. Acres of land and years of experience are not requirements for growing food.

It’s more about the patience to tend seeds — and enough enthusiasm to keep up the trial-and-error of gardening.

That’s what visitors on the first annual Functional Food Garden Tour will find out.

This Saturday, Aug. 10, a dozen Forest Grove growers dedicated to producing as much food as possible in spaces large and small will open their gardens to the public and be available to answer questions.

Garden gawkers will see that a young kiwi vine can produce hundreds of fruits; a few potted tomatoes can produce a year’s supply of spaghetti sauce; and one fruit tree can lead to a cabinet full of jelly jars.

Each destination has its own separate focus — water use, kid-friendly learning spaces, food preservation, community building, sustainable growing techniques and unusual fruits, to name a few. “They’re all so different in size and style,” said Robin Lindsley of the Dairy Creek Community Food Web (DCCFW).

All 12 stops will be revealed Saturday when tourists pick up their maps and brochures at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center. People can choose how many locations they visit. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the DCCFW.

Inspired by the annual floral garden tour put on by the Friends of Historic Forest Grove, Lindsley and her food-web counterparts wanted to know more about food NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - This Earth oven, which is made of sand and local clay-heavy soil, stays hot for two days and is used to bake bread and pizza.

The tour is designed to show visitors what they can turn their yards into, Lindsley said. “Whether you have a patio or a farm,” she said, “we want to put gardeners together to talk with each other — both die-hard gardeners who are raising food for their families and more casual gardeners.”

In addition, “we are trying to bring city-wide attention to the fact that people are often raising food because they need it,” said Lindsley. “Many people couldn’t afford fresh produce if they didn’t grow it themselves.” (See sidebar.)

DCCFW’s Saturday tour will include Richard White and Charlene Murdock-White’s agricultural learning center — a one-acre plot they call Nana Cardoon, where chickens and ducks roam, fruit trees fill the yard, kale grows wild, and the two locals try to produce everything they eat right in their own backyard.

“We want to show how much can be done on small acreage to supply your own nutrition,” Murdock-White said. “You can raise everything you need. We’re really not doing anything differently than our grandparents or great-grandparents did.”

Tourists approaching the residence will see a cozy house nestled among trees with an orchard to the left and Murdock-White’s homemade vinegar barrels straight ahead (a mix of wine and yeast).

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - This stationary bike at Nana Cardoon is attached to a small mill that grinds grain. Turning the corner to the right, they’ll find a bike-powered grain mill, an Earth oven that stays hot for two days and is fueled by orchard prunings, a dehydrator, a steam juicer, an outdoor dining area, pint jars full of pickled and spiced vegetables, and fermenting sauerkraut, all sheltered by a canopy of concord grapes used to make wine, jelly and juice.

Just around the bend are fig, peach and persimmon trees, and walking a little farther will lead to the vegetable garden, filled with crops the couple has grown by saving their own seeds.

B Street Farm, another stop on the tour, is another small-acreage Forest Grove space open to those interested in local food production.

The farm, which sits on 3.5 acres of Metro-owned land maintained by Pacific University students and other volunteers, is open for camps, classes and school visits — and to anyone interested in permaculture.

O’Day manages a farm camp each summer, which teaches children about food and farming. Campers harvest food and take it home with them, O’Day said, and for some it’s a totally new experience.

She remembers a pre-teen boy who refused to eat peas, based on his experience with canned peas. The next thing she knew, O’Day saw the boy with two sacks full of fresh peas ready to take home to his mom. “Picking fresh peas and trying them on the farm changed the way he thought about eating,” O’Day said.

Pacific University students and others help raise sheep and guinea pigs for fun, chickens for eggs and rabbits for meat, she said, and the manure is composted for fertilizer. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Neighbors to Nana Cardoon, the Benders, will also be on the tour. Check out their wild honey bee hive, and the crops each Bender child cares for.

There’s a medicinal herb garden; a model of a sustainable community-gathering space that serves as the farm’s central focal point; willow teepees and trellises; row upon row of vegetables and herbs; fruit trees and berry bushes — partially bordered by Gales Creek and natural woodland.

O’Day wants visitors to see that sustainability is attainable for the average citizen through simple ways.

O’Day, a Pacific University art professor, describes the farm as “just a big art project. As an artist, I make something for an audience to experience. They come here and they get a sense of what sustainability is and it connects them to sustainability in a positive way. The way I work on this is exactly the way I work on a piece of clay.”

Oregon Food Bank connection

The Oregon Food Bank staff will be working with an AmeriCorps intern from September 2013 to July 2014 to assess the community food system of rural Washington County, said Megan Newell-Ching of the OFB.

Almost 10 percent of Washington County residents and 14.4 percent of the county’s children live in poverty, according to an 2010 OFB assessment.

“The Oregon Food Bank’s mission is to end hunger and its root causes,” Newell-Ching said. “To end food insecurity, you have to get food for people for today, but also build individual and community resources for the future. Providing self-sufficiency through gardening may not provide all a family’s food for the whole year, but it’s one piece of the puzzle.”

The OFB’s Seed to Supper classes, offered throughout Washington County, teach adults to grow a portion of their own food on a budget.

The Dairy Creek Community Food Web organizes gardening classes in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Master Gardener program, preservation classes with the Oregon Food Bank, and monthly food-centered film screenings at the Forest Grove Grange.

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