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Paperjam Press spotlights Friend of Family Farmers (FOFF)

Friends of Family Farmers is building a strong and united voice for Oregon’s independent family farmers, food advocates, and concerned citizens who are working to foster an approach to agriculture that respects the land, treats animals humanely, sustains local communities, and provides a viable livelihood for family farmers.

This month I did an interview with Nellie McAdams– iFarm Program Director

Deb:   How long have you been working with Friends of Family Farmers?

Nelllie:   Just about one year

Deb:   Do you have a background in agriculture?

Nellie:   Yes, my family has a 300 acre farm in Gaston growing hazelnuts—I grew up spending the weekends on the farm while living in the city during the week. And I have a law degree from Lewis & Clark College concentrating in natural resources and environmental law. I was an apprentice at Dancing Roots Farm in Troutdale and have spend time on 18 different farms in different countries including New Zealand, Hawaii, Nepal, France and Wales under the WWOOF program.

Deb:   What a wide range of experiences!  When did Friends of Family Farmers get started?

Nellie:  They started in  2005 and in 2007 they became a nonprofit 501(c)(3)

Deb:   How are they funded?

Nellie:   We do not receive any public funding – it is all private.  Two of our contributors are the McKenzie River Gathering, and Farm Aid (Willie Nelson’s organization that was founded during the farm crisis of the 1980’s).

Deb:   What is FOFF’s  mission?

Nellie:   Friends of Family Farmers serves as a resource hub and a unified voice for family-scale, sustainable farmers, as well as for what we call “eaters” – everyone who eats and therefore has a stake in how their food is produced.  While only 1% of the US population are farmers, 100% of us are eaters.  FoFF helps educate and mobilize all eaters to shape the kind of agricultural system they want to support.

 

Deb:  What are the long-term goals for FOFF?

Nellie:   To increase the number of family-scale farms in the state,  to promote the economic viability of these farms, and to educate consumers on how their food is produced so they can better advocate for the type of farming they want to see.   Every 2nd Tuesday of the month we have an event called InFARMotion and Beer! at Holocene (11th and Morrison). The August InFARMation will focus on grass-fed beef and the September one will focus on tomato breeding. At a legislative level we are concentrating on farmer financing including Aggie Bonds (very low interest rate loans to farmers that are made possible by a federal-tax exemption for the financial institution).  It may seem surprising but Oregon currently does not have a state government program for farm financing and most states do.

Deb:  What are some of your successes?

Nellie:   We placed a family-scale sustainable farmer on the State Board of Agriculture, and  passed 3 pieces of legislation in 2011.  One law authorizes on-farm sales of up to 1,000 poultry per year per farm, if the birds have been raised and slaughtered by the farmer on the farmer’s property. A second bill makes it possible to process food in your own kitchen.  We also created FarmOn!,the Oregon chapter of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition.  It  helps promote free educational/social events around the state that are for farmers.  Since April we have promoted over 30 events!

Deb:   Wow — that is impressive! Sounds like there is a small scale farm  movement in this state.

Nellie:  yes, but that’s not all —in 2009 we started iFarming – a matchmaking program for landholders and aspiring farmers that helps put extra land into use, and we have a resource area on our website for financing, training, and jobs.

Deb:   So, I am assuming you need volunteers to help make all this happen?

Nellie:   Yes, if folks want to volunteer, they can contact Lori@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org.  She’ll hook them up with anything from data entry to tabling, poster hanging, translation, event planning and more.

Deb:  What events do you have coming up?

Nellie:   On September 8th we are putting on some educational panels at the Small Farm School at Clackamas Community College.

And for next year we have a Rally Day in Salem planned for Feb 11th , 2013—visit our website to find out more friendsoffamilyfarmers.org

Deb:   Are there any other links you would like to share with our readers?

Nellie:   Yes, there are separate websites for the different programs. IFarm (our land matchmaking service) www.ifarmoregon.org, FarmON! (National Young Farmers Coalition) www.facebook.com/FarmonOregon.  If anyone wants to join or receive email updates about upcoming events can email nellie@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org

And one more thing I would like to add is that Friends of Family Farmers is a membership organization.  We rely on our strength in numbers to show legislatures in Salem just how many people are interested in preserving our local, sustainable agricultural community in Oregon. Yearly membership in our organization is free for farmers, $5 for students, $35 for individuals, and $55 for households.  If you would like to become a member, just email Lori@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or call 503-759-3276.  We would be honored to have your support.

Deb:  thanks so much for spending time with me — I feel your organization is so valuable and it’s an honor to help FOFF with your flyers, brochures, postcards and more.