Sandwiched on Portland’s East Side, in the highly developed area between Interstate 205 and Southeast 122nd Avenue, Zenger Farm seems an unlikely location for agriculture of any kind, let alone an educational farm.
You expect to hear the sounds of traffic and city noises when you arrive. Yet, close your eyes and instead you’ll hear the sounds of song birds and chickens, or the whoops of school children discovering that food doesn’t grow on a grocery shelf.
The farm’s 16 acres is run by a nonprofit that leases the land from the city of Portland. With the philosophy that everyone deserves access to good food, staff and volunteers grow about 19,000 pounds of organic produce annually, much of it sold at discount to food stamp recipients at the Lents International Farmers Market, which is run by Zenger Farm.
In addition to food production, the farm is a showcase of sustainability and community involvement. Some 7,000 students visit each year and take home an understanding of what it takes to feed a community. Cooking classes, workshops and internships help further the message.
NCNM’s Andy Erlandsen, ND (’11), began taking his Farm to Table classes there after hearing about the farm from Courtney Jackson, ND (’08), of the NCNM Food as Medicine Institute. Part of the Master of Science in Nutrition program, classes take an extensive tour and help with soil preparation, planting herbs and pulling weeds. “They learn an appreciation for how a small-scale farm can have a really big impact,” said Erlandsen, “and that food production is more complex than just putting a plant in the ground.”