SunCatcher Farms, Portland, OR
This summer I worked for SunCatcher Farms in Portland, directly under the guidance of the farm owner and founder, Nicole Thomas. Nicole runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which means that people in Portland can purchase a share of the farm and receive a weekly box of fresh produce. Members can also purchase additional shares to be donated to a local food bank, helping to increase the circulation of fresh produce in such organizations. Because SunCatcher Farms is located centrally in Portland, Nicole’s work is particularly concerned with using the land in a space-efficient manner. Part of this includes maintaining the soil so that the land usage is sustainable over the long term, in addition to planting produce that functions well within the space constraints. My work with Nicole included both planting and harvesting the produce we used to create the weekly CSA boxes and other farm maintenance tasks that allowed the farm to be as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible, like increasing the scale of the compost system. My other primary project was creating the weekly newsletter that went out to CSA members, which described what was in their box that week and how to use some of the produce or parts of the produce that people might be unfamiliar with or typically opt to throw out instead of using.
As someone who is interested in pursuing urban food justice after college, this experience was very informative in directing that interest. I learned that I am more successful in my work when I am able to be outside and doing things that are hands-on, producing material results. I also learned to really appreciate the small business model that Nicole had set up, where she was largely in control of every element of the farming operation. Compared to other farmers I have worked with, Nicole was more knowledgeable regarding the farm itself as well as the financial and logistical aspects of managing the farm. Her holistic picture of the entire operation seemed to prepare her to have a much more successful farming model than other farms I have worked on.
I am now excited that I have the tools to start a similar option post-graduation if that were something I wanted to pursue. My new connections to Nicole and the broader farming community in Portland have also given me a network of people that I could reach out to as I continue to think about building my own farm operation. I know that these connections will be invaluable in offering the support and information I would need to take on such a project on my own.
I want to thank the Estate of Bruce C. Davey, as well as the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, for providing me with the opportunity to work with SunCatcher Farms. Their support made it possible for me to work with an organization as small as SunCatcher, which was such a critical part of my learning from this experience.