In this day and age, it’s not that often that kids get to see where the food they eat comes from. Nor do most adults get that opportunity, and fewer still have ever broken a sweat in the field planting seeds, tending crops or harvesting the bounty.
But Portland, with its environmental leanings and a focus on all things local, actually offers an impressive array of opportunities for kids to learn where their food comes from and for adults to try their hand at farming. From working urban farms to agricultural education centers just outside of town, Portland is the perfect place to get a taste of the farming life. Here are a few to consider.
Part of a 320-acre donation land claim on Portland’s east side that was farmed in the 19th century, Zenger Farm today is one of the Rose City’s most well-known urban farms. The farm, which grows mixed vegetables and fruits on four acres, hosts thousands of elementary school kids on field trips and farm camps all year long. It also welcomes visitors by appointment. What’s more, volunteer opportunities are available for everything from tending crops to teaching kids.
One of many working farms on Sauvie Island just north of Portland, Able Farms grows organic fruits and vegetables and raises livestock for eggs and meat. In addition to hosting a range of farm dinners and workshops, Able Farms also encourages volunteers to come and take part in the world of urban farming.
A more formal approach to teaching kids about farming comes at the Sauvie Island Center, which offers elementary school students the chance to learn about growing food and farming on its working farm. The center hosts regular field trips throughout the year and summer camps in the summer, all of which need volunteers who enjoy gardening, interacting with kids and learning more about farming.
Just as its name implies, this nonprofit builds “mini-production farms” on underused schoolyards to help teach kids about growing nutritious food. But you don’t have to be a third grader to learn at Schoolyard Farms. The nonprofit, which has grown more than 5,000 pounds of produce in its first three years of operation, is always looking for volunteers for field work and gardening education.