No Slow Food Without Farmland

Guest post by Katherine Deumling, Slow Food Regional Governor for Oregon and a member of the Slow Food USA Board of Directors

What is at stake in this year’s critical, long-term planning for urban and rural space in our tri-county region?

Yesterday, I testified on behalf of Slow Food Portland before the Reserves Steering Committee at Metro. This committee was created in response to Senate Bill 1011 (from the 2007 Oregon legislative session) to determine which lands outside the current Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) should be designated for urban use and which for rural (e.g. farm and forest, wetlands, etc.). For the last several decades, the UGB came up for discussion every five years, leaving both farmers and developers near the boundary uncertain of their future. Under this new bill, the Reserves Steering Committee, made up of four voting members (a Metro Councilor, and a county commissioner from Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah County respectively) and many other folks, representing cities, businesses, agriculture, environmental groups, and civic/social interests, will review areas surrounding the UGB for potential conservation for the next 40-50 years.

For a more comprehensive overview of the Reserves process and goals visit Metro’s Urban and Rural Reserves page.

The committee itself is a varied and large group, but with only four voting members, as mentioned above. In Metro/reserve speak, I came to understand that these folks are known as the “Core 4.” The committee has been taking public comment and has dispersed a survey, in addition to much research. In preparation for Wednesday’s committee meeting, Laura Masterson, farmer and citizen-extraordinaire and Slow Food Advisory board member, briefed me on the status of the committee’s work. Of particular concern to Slow Food and other farm/ag-related groups are the many, many acres of “foundation” farmland (the best soil for farming) that are up for discussion for urban reserve in Washington County. The Washington County Farm Bureau Foundation Lands Base Protection Map, included in Slow Food’s testimony, shows a proposed agricultural buffer zone along the perimeter of the current Urban Growth Boundary that would protect these foundation lands well into the future. It also presents possibilities for urban reserves outside the current UGB.

In addition to my testimony, Amy Benson of Square Peg Farm and a 2008 Terra Madre delegate, testified on the behalf of the Portland Area CSA Coalition (PACSAC), complementing our suggestions and concerns in many ways. Dozens of interested citizens and representatives from various area organizations attended the meeting to listen in on the proceedings. It will be interesting to see how this process proceeds over the next six months and there likely will be future opportunities for Slow Food Portland and our many members to weigh in on the importance of farmland in our region. So stay tuned!

You can download and read Slow Food Portland’s testimony letter to the Reserves Steering Committee here (PDF).

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