Your Food, Your Legislature: Hits and Misses Tallied for Oregon's Food System

The Oregon Legislature adjourned "sine die"—which translates as "without a day," i.e. with no appointed date for resumption—on June 26, after a session marked by the usual rancor between the GOP minority (which staged a virtual "walkout" over objections to Governor Brown's COVID restrictions, the third year in a row for that maneuver) and the Democratic majority. Despite that and the fact that the session was conducted online due to the pandemic, there was some progress on strengthening our food system. Below is a summary of the hits and misses of the most important bills affecting our local food system:

Hits

Oregon supports more small meat processors.

Grant program to increase small-scale meat processing capacity (HB2785): The grant fund was allotted $2 million, plus an additional $300,000 for OSU’s Clark Meat Science Center. According to a report from Friends of Family Farmers' Amy Wong, "This long-overdue investment should be considered a major milestone for small farmers and ranchers who have pushed for expanded processing for decades." What this program means for you is that, in the future, more locally grown, sustainably produced meat from small Oregon farmers should be coming to your table.

Bovine Manure Tax Credit (HB 2451 and SB 151): This measure died in committee. It would have continued funding tax credits for factory farms that use methane digesters to product natural gas. The vast majority of these credits have gone to Threemile Canyon Farms, the 70,000-cow mega-dairy supplying most of the milk for Tillamook cheese products, which is owned by an out-of-state corporation. It's a big step forward that our legislature rejected a highly greenwashed process that maintains investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, one that also props up a factory farm system that harms small farmers, rural communities and our environment, not to mention the animals it exploits.

More fresh produce for Oregonians on food assistance.

Double Up Food Bucks (HB 2292 and SB 555): The Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program assists recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers' markets, farm share sites and retail outlets that participate in program. This important program was funded at the $4 million level—a big jump from the initial $1.5 million funding level in 2019. Nearly one in four Oregonians experienced hunger during the pandemic and this program is a triple win for eaters, farmers, and local communities.

Farm to School Grant Program (part of the Education Dept. budget): The Oregon Farm to School Grant Program, which was in danger of being eliminated altogether, was awarded $10.2 million, maintaining its current level of funding.

Misses

Oregon Organic Action Plan (SB 404): This bill would have increased funding to the Oregon State University Extension Service for new positions related to organic production as well as funding for expanding the market for organic crops and products. Assurances were made to advocates that it would be included in the final budget reconciliation bill, but at the last minute it was dropped from the bill.

Bill to pause permits for dairy CAFOs dies in committee.

Moratorium on permits for industrial dairies (SB 583): Sadly, as posted in the mid-session report, this bill that would have allowed a pause in the permitting of new and expanding mega-dairies died in committee. Lobbying by powerful industrial agriculture interests have once again prevented the state from enacting reasonable protections of Oregon’s air, water, climate, rural communities, small farmers and animal welfare.


Thanks to Amy Wong, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers, for her help in compiling this report.

Camp Stories: Return to Paradise

It was a frantic beginning to a trip that was supposed to be all about chilling out. First, a record-breaking heat wave upended the balmy summer weather typical of Western Oregon in late June, which followed on an exceptionally dry spring. Indoor temperatures, even with fans blowing and our window air conditioner blasting on high, were hovering in the high 80s.

Home away from home.

The generous offer of a beach retreat from a friend was one we couldn't refuse, so we threw the dogs and the ice chest in the car and took off for two nights, returning mid-week. On returning home we quickly emptied the car, started a load of laundry, threw the tent in the car and dashed to our targeted campground, hoping to find a site where we could spend the Fourth of July weekend, a yearly pilgrimage considering our noise-averse pups.

Paradise Creek, a rustic campground in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest where we've camped in years past, has around 40 sites, 60 percent of which are reservable with 40 percent available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Some of the best sites along the creek (particularly numbers 27 and 29) are non-reservable, so we hoped that by arriving mid-week we might just snag one of those.

Puppy's first camping trip.

As we turned into the campground, I said a silent prayer that the camping goddess would favor us with a good campsite. We noted that there were indeed a few available near the entrance (bordering the road) that might be okay in a pinch. As we rounded the turn to the creekside spots, I held my breath.

We ticked them off as we crept past. Nope. Nope. An inside site, across the road from the creek, was open, but we rolled on knowing we could come back around if we had to. Site 27, a large double, was taken—crap!—and there was just one more site on the creek side, number 29, beyond it.

Astonishingly, it was open! We parked the car at the site and I practically ran to the registration stand to fill out the slip and deposit our check while Dave started setting up the tent. The plan was to leave the tent set up on the site overnight—allowed if you return within 24 hours—then dash home to pack up our gear and come back the following day.

G&T on the rock(s).

The next evening found us settled in, with drinks in hand and pasta bubbling on the campstove, ready to be smothered in a Bolognese I'd brought from home. The following days were blessedly quiet—this campground is normally punctuated by birdsong rather than generators—full of walks, reading by the creek, naps and relearning how to relax. After our COVID year, it was more than welcome.

Read more Camp Stories about our favorite places here and here, and get my list of must-have gear and hacks collected over our decades of camping!

Who Is The Oregon *You* Are?

As a fifth-generation Oregonian, the Oregon I am spans the breadth of the places I love in our state, from the sun on the jeweled spray of ocean waves, to long sandy beaches stretching between wild green headlands with their haystacks and spires that refuse to crumble under the relentless pounding of the tides. It's the snow-covered spine of the volcanoes of the Cascade Range, and the Blue Mountains with their granite boulders tumbling down to alpine lakes, as well as the wide wings of the towering Wallowas on our eastern border.

But the Oregon I am also strives to live up to a deeply held belief in the values of community and our interdependence, a concern for the rights our fellow citizens and the preservation of our shared resources. Knowing that we've not always lived up to these shared values doesn't mean we shouldn't still work together to make them real. In fact, it means we should work all the harder, since we'll all be stronger for it as we move forward.

That's why I'm excited about "The Oregon I Am" campaign launching today from the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT). It's an invitation to step outside and discover the Oregon we all are, to connect to each other and to our favorite Oregon places, including those we've yet to discover. To that end, the coalition of 30 individual Land Trusts around the state—each one dedicated to preserving land in perpetuity for the people of Oregon—have created a map highlighting 81 locations, each one a unique, protected place that anyone can visit.

In coordination with the campaign, eight Oregon craft breweries are releasing eight new beers that celebrate our state's diverse landscapes, each related to or inspired by a location on the map. Each brewery tackled the challenge in their own way—by using all Oregon-grown ingredients, by fermenting beer outdoors in a nature preserve using microbes from the air, by capturing the essence of a sunny Oregon summer day, or by collaborating with a local land trust.

“As Oregonians, we love our trees, we love our deserts, we love our mountains, and we love our beer,” said Kelley Beamer, COLT Executive Director. “Many of our land trust members have strong relationships with local breweries because brewers deeply understand the connection between healthy environments and the healthy water, hops, and malt that make great beer. As we built our beautiful map of accessible properties across Oregon we knew that working with like-minded breweries would be the perfect way to celebrate the incredible bounty of our land and give cheers to these hidden gems in our state.”

For instance, Crux Fermentation Project in Bend made an Experimental IPA with 95 percent Oregon-grown ingredients, which the brewers fermented in the open air at Deschutes Land Trust’s 151-acre Camp Polk Meadow Preserve (left photo, #9 on the map). Eugene's Ninkasi Brewing, inspired by the brewery's volunteer days with the McKenzie River Trust, made an Unfiltered NW Pale Ale inspired by Green Island (#24 on the map), a 1,000-acre island in the middle of the Willamette River where it meets the McKenzie.

Seven of the beers will be available at their respective breweries and at retail locations (see list below) starting today, and the Crux Experimental IPA will be released for a Happy Hour event on July 25th. Register for the First Friday of Summer Happy Hour with the brewers on that date and talk with them about their inspiration for these brews.

If you're inspired to tell your story about the Oregon you are, you can submit a short video and it could be selected to be part of “The Oregon I Am” film premiering in December!

The beers inspired by The Oregon I Am map can be found at:

Gearing Up for Local Grains: Grinding Our Own Flour!

It started innocently enough. Dave got interested in baking bread several years ago and, from a post I wrote at the time, it went like this:

"Dave made a few stabs at baking his own bread using recipes he garnered from various websites and books, even going so far as to start his own sourdough from the yeast left at the bottom of a bottle of Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog. Results of these experiments were mixed, from lumpen to acceptable, but none had the crisp crust and bubbled interior of the artisan-style loaves he was dreaming of."

Then he got Chad Robertson's book, Tartine Bread, as a gift from perceptive friends, and he was off to the races. Initially he was using standard AP (all-purpose) white flour, then began incrementally adding whole wheat to his loaves to add texture and flavor. I encouraged him to try organic flours, since they're beneficial not only for our family's health, but also better for the soil, the water, the air and the planet than flour from pesticide-dependent conventional grains.

Shortly after that he began reading about locally grown grains being pioneered by farmers and institutions like Washington State University's Breadlab that sought to marry flavor and sustainability, as well as revitalizing local grain economies that have been (literally) losing ground to global conglomerates for decades.

Around that time I ran into Adrian Hale, Portland editor, writer and bread evangelist, and told her about my husband's fascination with sourdough. She immediately put us down to receive her Thousand Bites of Bread e-mail newsletter that lists the local grains, flours and legumes that she distributes from her home, sourced from farms and mills around the Northwest. And that's when 25-pound bags of flour began showing up on our kitchen counter with names like Rouge de Bordeaux, Edison, Hard Red, Bono Rye, Einkorn and Sonora.

But it didn't stop there.

Now those 25-pound bags of flour have turned into 25-pound bags of grains with the addition of a Komo Mio grain mill. We'd originally discussed getting a milling attachment for our KitchenAid mixer, but were concerned that, over time, it would stress the motor too much. The KoMo Mio is the product of a collaboration between legendary German mill designer Wolfgang Mock and Austrian Peter Koidl—the name is derived from "Ko" for Koidl and "Mo" for Mock—and it's compact enough to sit on the counter and is designed to last a lifetime. It was also not much more expensive than the mixer attachment, so it made that decision easier.

So far it's been used to grind some of the flour for Dave's incredible bread, of course, but also his amazing biscuits and scones, and the flavor of the fresh-ground grain is noticeably more vibrant and it has a much more distinct grain aroma.

For those of you new to baking, you'll find a list of Dave's favorite resources below.

Essential Baking Books:

Video Series:

Being Green: Asparagus and Sorrel Risotto

Author's Note: First of all, apologies for not posting for so long…having a new puppy will do that to a schedule! Waking up an hour earlier every day, taking the youngster outside every hour for potty breaks, plus the exercise it takes to tire out a nine-month-old—fortunately we've found out he loves to play soccer—has filled up our days but limited my writing time. (And we wouldn't trade the experience for the world!)

Plus it's spring! I've been seriously indulging in asparagus at every opportunity, mostly in the simplest way possible (puppy, remember?), that is, drizzled with olive oil and pan roasted in a 350° oven for 20 minutes, then served with a squirt of lemon. Heaven!

But when I've had that umpteen times and want to change it up a little, I'll make a risotto that does double duty as a main dish and veg…though if someone in your household happened to grill up some salmon or chicken to go alongside, that would be hard to turn down.

Asparagus Risotto with Sorrel Pesto and Preserved Lemon

For the pesto:
2 c. sorrel leaves (some peppery arugula or spinach would be fine, too)
2 c. cilantro or parsley
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts or filberts (aka hazelnuts)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. grated parmesan

For the risotto:
1 lb. asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 onion, diced

1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
2 c. arborio rice

1 c. white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. sorrel pesto

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. preserved lemon, chopped (or zest of one lemon)
Salt to taste


To make the pesto, place the sorrel, cilantro, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Begin processing while slowly adding the olive oil until the mixture is a smooth purée, scraping down as necessary with a spatula. Remove to a bowl and stir in the half cup of parmesan.

Clean the processor, then put half of the chopped asparagus stalks in the food processor and add just enough water to make a smooth purée; set aside.

Put stock in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Then, in a deep skillet or large saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid absorb into the rice. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about absorbed into the rice, add more. 

When you have used about half the stock, add the puréed asparagus and asparagus tips, then continue to add stock as necessary. In 5 minutes or so, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. Add a half cup of the pesto, preserved lemon and parmesan and stir briskly, then remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt. (Risotto should be slightly soupy.) Serve immediately.

Oregon Farmers' Markets Can Require Masks While They Wait for State Guidance

If you're planning on going to your farmers' market this weekend, be aware that markets will still be under state mandates that require mask-wearing and social distancing, despite the new guidelines issued yesterday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"We have confirmation today from Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) that markets and other businesses should not be making changes before getting new guidance from Oregon Health Authority [OHA]," according to Rebecca Landis, market director of the Corvallis-Albany Farmers' Markets.

Governor Brown announced in a press conference that updated guidance will come from Oregon HealthA in the next few days for businesses, employers, and others to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status. "Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now, rather than worrying about verifying vaccination status," she said.

For the time being, that includes Oregon's farmers' markets.


UPDATE 5/19/2021: Portland Farmers Market announced on its Facebook page today that it will continue to require masks at the market.

"On May 18, OHA released updated guidance about mask and physical distancing requirements for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“'In public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required.'

"Thank you in advance for continuing to wear a mask at the farmers market, as our staff will not be verifying vaccination status. Read Portland Farmers Market’s full COVID safety guidelines. Your efforts to make this space safer for everyone are appreciated!"

Read the Oregon Health Authority's Interim Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals.


UPDATE 5/22/2021: Oregon farmers' markets are allowed to require vendors, shoppers and staff to wear face masks, according to the latest guidance from OHA:

"Businesses, organizations, employers or other entities in control of indoor or outdoor public spaces may continue to require masks, face coverings and face shields. Individuals should be aware that some businesses, organizations, entities, events or facilities may require more stringent mask or face covering requirements and may exclude from their premises those individuals who, regardless of their vaccination status, fail to comply with those requirements."

Going Where (Almost) No One Has Gone Before: Kimchi Risotto?

If nothing else, this pandemic has taught me to not be so slavishly obedient to the dictates of a recipe, and to trust my own tastes in flavoring dishes. That's because I haven't been able to run to the store for an exotic ingredient, or dash out when the yen for a special dish pings my brain's rolodex, or even to simply give up on a recipe, thinking I don't have everything the instructions call for.

Five-allium risotto? Why not?

Cooking every day—like everyone else, we're WFH or, in Dave's case, retired—means sometimes making three meals a day from a pantry that gets refreshed only a couple of times a week. For daily shoppers like we used to be in what are being quaintly referred to as "the before times," it's meant we've had to be more creative, more flexible and not so darn fussy. You might say we've been developing our dancing-in-the-kitchen muscles, while trying not to sacrifice deliciousness to expedience.

Not that every experiment or adaptation has been a smashing success, mind you. But the five-allium risotto made with  the yellow onion, green onion, shallot, leek, and garlic we had on hand when there was no chicken in the fridge? Or the mapo tofu made with some admittedly inauthentic ingredients? Or the sausage and pasta casserole when we didn't have enough sausages for grilling? They were all pretty dang good!

Not enough sausages for the whole family? Make a casserole!

So it was, when yesterday evening I found we only had three-quarters of a jar of Choi's kimchi and most of a leftover grilled pork chop to work with. To be honest, I'd actually been itching to try a kimchi risotto, just because it sounds so weird, and our nearly empty veg bin was the perfect excuse. How bad could it be? (Insert winking emoji here…)

Turns out it was actually easy as heck, and more of an umami bomb than you usually get from a traditional risotto. From the reaction of the diners I'd say it'll be appearing again regardless of the state of our pantry.

You can't ask for more than that from an impromptu dance in the kitchen!

Kimchi Risotto

3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced fine
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock, warmed on the stove
2 c. prepared Napa cabbage kimchi plus 1/4 c. brine
2 c. cooked pork or chicken (or substitute 1 lb. ground pork, sautéed)
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
Salt to taste
Red chile oil for drizzling

Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the rice and sauté for about 3 minutes or so—each end of the rice grains should be slightly translucent.

Add a ladle-full of stock with the kimchi brine and stir until it's almost all absorbed, then add another ladle of stock and stir until it absorbs. Continue adding stock, and when you've ladled in about half the stock, stir in the chopped kimchi and cooked meat. Keep adding stock and stirring until the rice is al dente or still has a nice texture without being crunchy. Stir in the fish sauce and salt to taste. Serve with a drizzle of red chile oil.

I separated a head of cauliflower into small florets (adding the chopped stalk and leaves), mixed in olive oil and garlic, then roasted it on a baking sheet in a 375° oven while I made the risotto. When it was browned nicely, I served it alongside the risotto as in the top photo.

A New Four-Legged Family Member: Meet Silas!

How do you fall in love without having met?

I never thought it was likely (not that anything's impossible) but the moment I clapped eyes on him, I knew. A friend calls it "that zing" in your heart when you know it's right.

En route to Oregon, kind of unsure of what's going on.

As with our other three Cardigan Corgis—Rosey, the matriarch, who retired from a career as a show and breeding dog; Walker, the failed show dog (his round ears were a non-starter with judges, plus he hated the show ring); and Kitty, another retiree and a joy every day—Silas was destined for a show career. But, and this may be TMI for some, he had Cryptorchidism, or a "retained testicle," that disqualified him from showing and breeding.

The show circuit's loss is our gain.

And he's not even here yet. This morning Silas left his home in Illinois and is traveling with a canine transport service that will deliver him to Portland next week. When the transport service texted to let me know they'd picked him up, I surprised myself by getting teary.

"That zing" again. I'll keep you posted.

Celebrate Earth Day: Use Those Stems, Bones, Thinnings and Stalks

Today marks the 51st anniversary of the first Earth Day, held on April 22nd, 1970. It was created by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who was disturbed that an issue as important as the environment was not being addressed in politics or by the media at the time. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended the festivities.

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

Today one of the most deadly crises facing our environment is climate change, and our increasingly industrialized global food system is rightfully blamed for its part in the disruptions we're experiencing. It's not just pollution from the pesticides used to grow crops, but the waste of limited natural resources like water and energy in these industrialized systems. Not to mention the damage from the methods used to extract those resources—fracking of natural gas, damming rivers and pumping oil, to name just a few.

Don't toss those garden thinnings!

Wasting the food we produce—estimates range up to as much as 40 percent, or 125 to 160 billion pounds of food—obviously wastes the resources and energy that went into producing those goods during production, processing, distribution, retail and consumption.

In Oregon, we're fortunate to have the bottle bill, passed in 1972 partly as a result of the environmental push that happened after the first Earth Day. The greater Portland area has a regular curbside compost and recycling system that keeps millions of tons of waste out of landfills.

But what can you and I do to help?

Use those trimimings, bones, shells and carcasses for stock!

First, take advantage of those compost and recycling programs. If your area doesn't have them, work with your neighbors and start attending public meetings to advocate for them.  Run for office yourself, or help elect officials who will work to bring those services to your community. Above all, vote.

Second, and it may seem like small potatoes (Ha! Get it?) but think about your own consumption. Gardeners can make use of the young plants they thin from their garden plantings—radish greens, corn thinnings and lettuce starts are just a few—and home cooks can make stock from vegetable trimmings, chicken carcasses and meat, shellfish and fish bones. (Corn stock from corn cobs was a revelation, and I once got a bag full of chicken carcasses from a restaurant that was going to throw them out after pulling the meat off of them. Horrors!)

Kevin Gibson's pickle bar.

Chef Kevin Gibson garnished dishes at the late, lamented Evoe with colorful, pickled stalks of chard. And personally, I like to keep the stems on when I cook kale, chard and collard greens. I just chop the whole leaves and stems into half-inch strips and throw the stemmy ends into the hot oil and garlic for a minute or two ahead of the leaves—I think it gives more texture to the finished sauté.

And Happy Earth Day, however you choose to celebrate it!

Underappreciated Allium: The Shallot

It's allium season in the Pacific Northwest, with wild varieties of onions and garlic appearing in spring meadows and their domestic cousins like leeks, spring onions, scallions, Spanish calçots, garlic and shallots cascading in from local farms. (By the way, if you see ramps? They don't grow here and are imported from other areas of the country.) Ginger Rapport, Market Master of the Beaverton Farmers Market, shares her love of these ubiquitous bulbs.

Shallots are an underappreciated member of the allium or onion family. While they are an essential ingredient in many cuisines like those of Southeast Asia and Vietnam, most Americans fail to appreciate all they have to offer. 

Shallots have a delicate, sweet flavor without the intense heat of an onion. They are preferable over onions in raw applications such as salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Finely diced, they provide a subtle bite to pan sauces and are delicious roasted whole, or pickled as a garnish. Shallots are ubiquitous in Vietnamese cooking, especially pho, where they are combined with ginger to give pho its unique taste and fragrance. 

In the past shallots were mainly imported from Europe which made them somewhat expensive when compared to onions. This is probably one reason why they are not as widely used here in the States as they should be. Domestically grown shallots are becoming more common, which is also making them more affordable. Fortunately for us here at the Beaverton Farmers Market, Farmer Yo Tee Telio grows huge, gorgeous shallots and you can find them in his Salmon Creek Farm booth at the market.

Fried Shallots

Frying shallots turns them into crispy, flavor-packed clusters that are good on almost anything. (This is not an exaggeration.) Beaverton Farmers Market Master Ginger Rapport keeps a container of them in her refrigerator at all times. Their caramelized flavor and crunchy texture adds sparkle to salads, potatoes, roasted or steamed vegetables, grain bowls, omelets, steaks, deviled eggs and avocado toast. Chopped, they can be added to dips or combined with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread. Bring cottage cheese to life with a sprinkling of fried shallots on top. They are also delicious eaten by the handful, and making them is super easy. 

When we said that they are good on everything? We meant it. 

8 small shallots
1 c. peanut oil (or vegetable oil like canola)
Salt

Peel shallots of their papery coverings, slicing off the root and papery tip. Slice shallots crosswise into very thin (1/16" or so) rings.

Heat oil in a frying pan until it shimmers. Check the temperature by taking one of the rings and tossing it into the pan. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Put sliced shallots into the pan and move them around with a spatula to keep them from sticking. Moderate heat to keep them sizzling but not burning. When they are golden brown remove them to racks set over paper towels to cool and crisp up.

Use immediately or store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two months.