Jill and Sara flourish on a farm like no other
Jill and Sara know that a little dirt and a lot of heart can make a difference for the people of Portland.
As Zenger Farm's Executive Director and Farm Manager, Jill and Sara work to provide hands-on food education and affordable, healthy food to the city's youth and underserved.
Located in urban Eastern Portland, Zenger Farm resides just past a strip club and next to a factory that puffs the smell of cookies from its smokestack. It's a tougher part of the city, where more than 24% of the people are food insecure — meaning they do not have access to adequate food.
Zenger Farm, with its 11 full-time employees, many interns and 900 volunteers, works to make food and food education accessible to those who need it.
They do that through the sustainable agriculture of Zenger itself, and also through their Lents Community Farmer's Market, their affordable CSA and their educational initiatives. They host "healthy eating on a budget" workshops, have people volunteering in exchange for food, and they host student and adult learning programs on a daily basis.
Executive Director Jill says that the sense of community is what keeps her coming to work. "Every day the farm has visitors, whether it's a five-year-old child meeting their first chicken or a senior member of a gardening club learning soil science."
Zenger Farm is filling a need in Portland, and they are growing rapidly while they do it.
Farm Manager Sara says, "In eight years, we've grown from a staff of 2 to a staff of 11. We've gone from hosting a couple hundred kids at the farm for educational programs each year, to educating 12,000 kids and adults about healthy food, healthy farms and environmental stewardship. We've also started one of Oregon's first CSA programs to accept food stamps."
And it doesn't stop there.
"We've added family cooking workshops, created a food stamp match program at our farmer's market, and now we're constructing a new building," says Jill. "It'll be called The Urban Grange. Local entrepreneurs can rent space there to launch their own food businesses."
Zenger Farm is a place where the opportunity to do good with food flourishes, and it's thanks in huge part to the hardworking hands of Jill and Sara — and the team of people they've cultivated. Being there feels like visiting a magical agricultural wonderland that rivals the likes of Disney itself. You're surrounded by lush green foliage, hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables, excited kids and fun-loving volunteers performing an impromptu "compost" rap. Most of all, you're enveloped by an infectious sense of optimism.
What Zenger Farm is doing, with all of its programs and initiatives, is so much more than food for thought — it's thoughtful food put into action. Learn more about the farm and see what Jill and Sara are up to by visiting ZengerFarm.org