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Bridging Divides: A collaborative regional vision of a more equitable food system for producers and improved community access to local foods

Increasing market access for food producers, fostering regional economic stability and growth, and alleviating food insecurities.

Photo of Mary McArthur
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District (Col-Pac)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Rural Development Initiatives - Small NGO, Ecotrust – Small NGO, Port of Garibaldi - Government, Food Roots – Small NGO (Tillamook County), North Coast Food Web - Small NGO (Clatsop County), Oregon Coast Visitors Association – Small NGO (Regional Tourism Agency), Visit Tillamook Coast – Small NGO (Local Tourism Agency), Nehalem Valley Farm Trust - Small NGO, Oregon North Coast Young Farmers Coalition - Small NGO, Nehalem River Ranch - Small Business, Blue Siren Shellfish - Small Business, Mayor Stevie Stephens Burden – Government, as well as a growing cohort of restaurants, farms, fishers, pasture based ranches, government agencies and small to medium size businesses.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://nworegon.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

City of St. Helens, Oregon

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Northwest Oregon, with a focus on rural Clatsop, Columbia, and Tillamook Counties and western Washington County.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are a collective of farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, restaurants, wholesale buyers, non-profits, local governments, and economic development agencies living and working within the North Coast and Columbia River eco-region at the intersection of Northwest Oregon and SW Washington. Scarcity in our rural environment necessitates bridging divides to secure higher levels of collaboration and coordination.


The coastal Pacific Northwest is a place of majestic natural beauty, abundance, and raw potential. It is a place characterized by large tracts of working agriculture lands, timber, and fishing fleets with strong ties to the intergenerational culture that supports our food system. 


With a deep love and respect for the life and opportunity supported here, we are committed to building a resilient and sustainable future for our land and people through a strong and vibrant food system.  We engage in strengthening interconnections and improving the infrastructure required to realize this regional potential while producing high quality healthy food that everyone in our communities can access. 


Our communities sit within the Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District (Col-Pac) designated by the State of Oregon and certified by the United States Economic Development Administration.  This non-profit was established “to assist in diversifying and strengthening the economy and livability of Northwest Oregon,” and its very structure promotes cross-sector dialogue, drawing guidance from counties, cities, ports, and across non-profit and private sectors, including a strong pool of leadership from the general population and historically marginalized communities.  

 

Col-Pac is the lead applicant for our Food Vision because of its history, reputation and success in convening various cross-sector stakeholders and coordinating projects that diversify and strengthen the regional economy with a focus on improving the quality of life for residents.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, and the Coast Mountain range frame an eco-region that defines this deeply rural region. Rugged, rocky intertidal shores, towering forests, perpetually moving tidal estuaries, and flowing mountain rivers shape our place and provide prolific habitats for a diversity of wild fish and shellfish, as well as fertile valleys where practically anything can grow.


A common pride in place exists among those who work our land, rivers, and seas.  Residents historically practiced “farm to table” lifestyles long before this became a chic urban trend. Neighbors helped each other can, smoke, and preserve the bounty from the land and sea in order to survive and prosper. They made cheese from the many dairies that thrive here. They gathered berries for jam, hunted for meat, fished, and bartered what they had for goods and services with their neighbors. These traditions proudly continue today.


We continue to identify largely as a working class culture that prides itself on self-reliance, independence, and our history. We are interdependent communities who rely on our neighbors across the region to continue to live and support a sustainable way of life while maintaining our small town roots. To do that we acknowledge our need for a more resilient food system that will continue to support us, develop and grow with us, and provide for the needs of our children, grandchildren, and all those who come after us.  We face the additional challenge of needing a more sustainable food system during times of natural disasters.


The land here has a proven ability to support an uncommonly diverse range of crops and wild harvested products. This edible landscape has captured the attention and appetites of restaurants, chefs and consumers who seek out food produced in our region for its distinct character and quality. The rural character and natural beauty of Northwest Oregon, as well as our close proximity to Oregon’s largest metropolitan area has also spurred a growing tourism economy. This is creating a new and expanding market that can potentially support high-quality, hyper-local food production and regional distribution systems for our communities to carry us into the future.


Residents of NW Oregon are hungry for more stability, greater access to high quality food, and successful transitions of their farms, ranches, and seafood operations to the next generation. We are bridging divides from a difficult time in our history when our small farms were closing, and fishing stocks were so depleted that the commercial fishing industry struggled for its survival.  Now we have new farmers, fishers, and food entrepreneurs who are committed to keeping our area a viable and thriving region by providing local, healthy and nutritious food to our marginalized populations. Upon our positive history we are rebuilding a thriving local food system to carry our communities forward with a stronger economy and overall better food access with improved nutrition.

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

At present, our region is challenged by rising costs, failing infrastructure, and reduced access to essential goods and services. We deal with the threat of catastrophes such as wildfires, floods, seismic episodes and changing ocean conditions that negatively impact our economies and environment. Because we face isolation if our fragile and limited highway system is compromised, we must be able to protect our local food supplies as part of our emergency preparedness within the region.  This is difficult since we rely on many supplies and services from outside our region, which are mainly transported over land.


The price of agricultural lands has risen dramatically over the last few decades while financing options remain limited for many local food producers, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount of land maintained as working farms,  ranches, and waterfronts. Working waterfronts experience greater risk of becoming trinket shops, and farmland faces risk of being turned into condos. 


Our community is challenged by its unique geographic dispersal of our population and a high rate of poverty; we face a tragic lack of affordable childcare, healthcare, and workforce housing. Rising costs of living negatively affect our diets and lifestyle choices.  Workers pursue multiple jobs or more hours. Food traditions are at risk of disappearing as fewer families cook at home, leading to more disconnect between kids and where their food comes from. All of these barriers work together against food security for our community.


Our region has a growing group of community-scale food producers providing nutritional, fresh, ethically produced foods to direct markets, but due to the scale and logistics involved, the price-point for these types of foods tends to be attainable only to the more economically well off. 


We have lost the basic food system infrastructure and services we once had, including ice production and cold storage, processors and butchers, and distribution methods. Developing this type of infrastructure is impractical for most individual producers due to its high capital cost, adding to the disproportionate risks faced by community-scale farmers, ranchers and seafood processors in our food value chain compared to larger, national and international entities. Accessing these resources elsewhere in the state adds cost to independent and smaller producers in the form of transportation time, vehicle wear-and-tear, fuel, animal welfare, and carbon emissions - driving up the costs of products and adding to producer stress.


In 2020 policy decisions tend to reflect the needs of larger producers who have more representation in our centers of government, increasing pressures of a growing urban/rural divide. Small local areas often fall through the cracks. Left on this course, by 2050, these challenges will continue to compound. We will have lost producers, infrastructure and the services required to support community-scale agriculture and fisheries.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision propels us from the crossroads of the early 21st century, building upon the foundation of our regional identity to bring greater diversity and equity to not only our food producers but the overall health of our region. 

 

Our vision of future food systems provides infrastructure, cooperative marketing and distribution in a way that small and mid-sized producers can access with less risk and capturing more market share than they could on their own. It includes a network of centralized food hubs and local feeder hubs with a defined mission to lessen the costs of cold storage, education, marketing, distribution, and processing, increasing the value producers can capture of food dollars while improving access to high quality, nutritious food in our communities. Because the same systems can benefit many small and mid-scale producers, the efficiencies allow local food to better permeate schools, hospitals and grocers, further improving economic resilience while strengthening the pride and connection people have to their land base and waterways. 


Building our own local supply chains not only decreases our collective carbon footprint for improved environmental resilience, it further increases profits while maintaining quality products and access. As consumers value and demand more ecological and integrated practices, land-based producers can collaborate more efficiently to sequester carbon and build wealth in their soils while strengthening their economic vitality.     


We envision a significant increase in small and mid-scale producers owning their farms, ranches, boats, and fishing permits so that economic resilience and sustainable growth happens in our communities. This economic stability then helps address community challenges such as affording housing, a structural issue which has been regionally prevalent. Our food system will circulate more dollars locally in a way that creates and distributes more wealth more equitably in our communities. In doing so, our food system bridges the isolation historically prevalent in our region in a way that increases diversity and brings better access to resources so that those who have been historically marginalized in our communities can participate and enjoy greater equity and overall health.


Food is at the heart of our community.  Great products that are locally accessible at reasonable prices increases the ease with which our communities choose healthy foods. Good food inspires creativity and attracts talent, diversity and innovation. By creating more options and spaces for community we build regional momentum for social interactions around food and shared purpose. We create an energy that supports a movement of change. This change starts where people can see and taste our collective real wealth within our food system, producing critical mass and continuing to attract and inspire others to join in.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

By 2050 Northwest Oregon leads our state and nation as a vibrant, inspiring model for sustainable and regenerative food production that spans land and sea based operations. 

 

With a culture of connected balance, traditional industries and diverse stakeholders have joined collaboratively and have created a social and environmental ecosystem with clean water, renewed and productive soils, protected wild spaces, and happier, healthier, hopeful people.  


Our people’s vision is active, actionable, and produces results across the entire socio-economic landscape. Our communities have enough housing, food, and energy to sustain us and help support our neighboring regions.  Our population consists of creative, positive thinkers, dreamers and change makers. Spurred by a supportive and responsive political framework and an environment of innovation, developers are reaching new heights in technological advances that improve efficiency, reduce waste and increase productivity for the food industry at every scale.  

 

An increasing number of our next generation's farmers, ranchers, and fishers see themselves as stewards of the local cultural and natural environment and have a clear, viable path to asset ownership, access to resources, and participation in food production.  

 

This collaboration is real and has renewed our pride and belief in ourselves and our region, generating gratitude and optimism for the future.  An efficient communications channel has evolved within the food sector, and the engaged dialogue that began at the local level has sparked momentum on a wider scale as communities across the globe exchange ideas, successes and passion for a healthier, more resilient world.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In 2020, we stood on the brink.

Mounting costs and challenges were diminishing producers’ viability and will to provide local food for our tables.

Yet a spark of hope pulsed with a brilliant, steady cadence, ready to ignite into a full, vibrant flame. This flame would sweep across our region with wild abandon, inspiring innovation in technology, precision logistics, public health, community collaboration and greater ecological consciousness that would grow quickly into a roaring, vital, all-encompassing energy. This bright hope would burn our minds clean to dream anew, illuminating in us a new and common Vision, rebuilding trust and ambition – bringing together divided communities, social classes and industries.

The next 30 years would see our home preserved, cherished and regenerated in ways we could never have imagined. We would gradually witness a complete transformation in our food system, see fallow fields come alive, watersheds restored, new habitat management strategies to protect our wild resources. Incredible advances in sustainable energy emerged. Businesses rallied for policy changes that lead to affordable distribution of nutritionally dense foods, contributing to lower health care cost, higher achievements in k-12 learning and better quality of life for all.

It was our destiny.

In 2050, we remember with appreciation the discomforts that caused a sudden and dramatic shift in political, environmental and social paradigms. 2020: our capacity was overstretched. Many people in the community wore multiple hats: running a business, raising a family, serving on multiple committees, port commissions or city councils; attending evening community meetings and advisory groups after hard days of work on the waterfront, in the fields or deep in the wild mountains; going to bed bone-tired but waking up to beautiful mornings in a beautiful land and remembering why they love to live here.

For years, community partners, leaders and laymen had been pulling together a wide berth of efforts to revitalize our region. Decades of study, consistent, inclusive stakeholder engagement, community listening sessions and scientific research had provided insight and foundation for wide-scale change. Government officials, economic leaders, and citizens from every walk of life were actively engaged on a wide set of issues revolving around a common theme: improving the resiliency and quality of life for our people - today and tomorrow.

It felt like the odds were stacked against us, but we learned from other models of change across the world, developing our own community engagement strategies to tackle local issues. As example, Oregon’s tourism industry was reorganizing into a sustainable economic engine that helped fuel food system change. Legislative changes allowed support of our local foods movement, protection of wild and sensitive natural areas, and make breakthroughs in transportation and emergency management plans. Oregon’s unique approach to the visitor economy made waves internationally and helped re-instill local pride in our unique towns and landscapes.

The sweat, toil and investments were working. New heads were raising, reawakening, people were talking amongst each other, realizing they had more in common than not.

It was a new beginning, and in 2020 we were catapulted into a true new vision of 20-20 clarity for the future.

We wanted more. We came out of planning mode and put every promising feasibility study to the test. We learned from our mistakes and shared an uncompromising spirit of optimism and resilience. Every success opened a door to more abundance for our families, friends, and neighbors. As stresses began to ease, people became more kind and giving toward one another. The spirit of poverty in our region began to lift.

Food system reform was the first catalyst for greater change. Sparked by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2020 challenge to define a future vision of hope, our communities took the opportunity to pool recent assessments on the local seafood value chain, food hub feasibility, housing needs, strategic visioning for tourism, and food insecurity together into a cohesive Food System Vision depicting our collaborative priorities, goals, gaps, and an actionable workplan.

Today in 2050, our vibrant regional Food System Vision is the product of that momentum and moment in time.

Economics

In 2050, our Food Hub Network serves diverse communities spanning all colors and cultures. A consistent baseline of sales helps producers grow and thrive, and high quality, healthful foods can reach all of our people. Stable markets allow producers to take risks and expand business models to utilize the full capacity of their assets. This increases the amount of available local foods and lowers prices for consumers.

With access to shared infrastructure in hip, convenient locations, producers experience less isolation, more efficiency. As producers capture more margin they are released from the need to sell at commodity prices. Increased profits allow workers to own their boats, fishing quotas, farms, and pasturelands. As pride in our local food system increases, we see a new generation interested in pursuing this lifestyle. Residents appreciate the social and ecological intersections of food and culture; communities rally to support each other in deeper ways. Social impact investing creates new wealth on local levels that improves conditions for all. Tourism marketing efforts inform and attract empathetic visitors who relish the opportunities to connect and spend money in the places they love.

Diet & Culture

Collectively, our food ethos continues to evolve and local markets expand with niche retail options. Food producers dialogue with an informed community of eaters to advance an equitable food system. Consumer preference has shifted toward food raised in ethical and regenerative ways; laws ban single use packaging; food waste has been drastically reduced. Previously marginalized genders and communities of color have equal opportunities to access land, permits, and local food and our small towns blossom and grow.

Our population supports food entrepreneurs who create value-added products, craft beverages, and nutrient dense dishes in restaurants. Junk foods, soft drinks, and the like are passed over in favor of flavorful local fare produced by respected neighbors and community members. Local food is present in schools and our integrated Food Hub Network offers student extracurricular opportunities to work and learn in a system that honors ingredients and people. Citizens are connecting to our sea and landscapes to “eat with the ecosystem” through wild harvested foods and underutilized or invasive species. More families are cooking together and savoring unique local food sources, such as cockle and butter clams, wasabi, and grass-fed beef. Our community health care system takes a holistic approach, prescribing local healthy foods and serving the same to patients. Cases of diabetes, heart diseases and diet related ailments are at record lows.

Our Food Hub Network also provides community gathering space, where new and native food traditions are celebrated and where consumer and small business education, training, and development can occur, generating greater connectivity between people and producers. This inspires an environment where collaboration, innovation and sustainability become the new “normal”.

Many hubs feature retail components where consumers can learn about how food is grown/harvested, all while enjoying a beautiful meal or purchasing food to take home. Producers engage in these venues to share how best practices contribute to ecological health and diversity of soils and fisheries and how that is linked to nutrition and human health.

Environment & Technology

In 2050 technology has improved the bottom line for producers and frees them to continue doing what they do best on land and sea. Inventory management and fulfilment systems ensure full product traceability for consumers and provide greater efficiency for producers and distributors. Over the past 30 years, policy changes and subsidy shifts supporting small local food producers have blazed the trail for tech advancement and integration into mainstream use.

We are sharing and learning from cultures around the world and finding new ways to reduce food waste and carbon outputs. Advanced tech minimizes fish waste and utilizes animal waste to produce “green” by-products such as electricity, health and beauty products, biologically verdant composts, and fuels, creating a cleaner environment and recapturing lost value. Fishermen continue to work alongside scientists and policy makers to create innovations in fishing gear and help monitor fish stocks and changing oceans; oystermen collaborate with universities to mitigate acidic ocean conditions that still threaten a 150 year old aquaculture industry.

We continue to face threat of natural disasters, but informed chefs open our minds to the benefits of local, regenerative farming and pasture management methods that translate into improved nutrient cycling, restored soils and delicious food. Our Network has minimized the number of delivery vehicles on the road, allowing producers to spend more time growing items for our communities.

Policy & Innovation

Local food producers and community leaders have organized to shift state and federal policy to be more reflexive toward small, rural producers. Our legislative representatives embody a spirit of interconnectedness and find success in alleviating food insecurity and addressing emergency preparedness for disasters. Known for our can-do attitude, our region attracts skilled and compassionate investors, architects and developers who are creating beautiful, energy efficient multi-use spaces, providing more workforce housing and new business opportunities.

Community building continues to compound in elegant ways, generating meaningful, lasting wealth for our people and place.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

It is no small task to bring a community together to begin to “see” the same picture of the future, and move collectively in that direction. 

In our case, the entire Food Vision Prize process has been a tremendous catalyst, inspiring fractured efforts and partners to come back together. We say “back together” because for over a decade, we have been collaboratively investing in various food system work and studies. Yet we have come to find this work is not well known outside of its immediate working groups, and many efforts had paused.

While relationships are still in place, the structure for guiding future work needed leadership to knit projects and resources into alignment. This phase reinvigorated us to work on the organizational structure necessary to access our vision.

Our vision has re-coalesced after the past 3 months of intense community “rapid response” to the global COVID crisis, and after absorbing the rich feedback from our Refinement stakeholder engagement process.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

Columbia Pacific Economic Development District

Rural Development Initiatives

Ecotrust

Food Roots

North Coast Food Web

Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Visit Tillamook Coast

Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative

Oregon Agricultural Trust

Oregon North Coast Young Farmers Coalition

Mayor, City of Wheeler

Brittell Architecture

Blue Siren Shellfish

Nehalem River Ranch

Tre-Fin Day Boat Seafood

Fort George Brewery

Straw to Gold

Cascadian Terroirist Media

JS Design Studio

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Extensive community stakeholder engagement activities including an in-depth North Coast Food Vision Survey. Open-ended questions were designed to elicit stakeholders’ unique ideas and perspective of our current food system. Despite COVID challenges, we received 49 responses from a diverse group with an age range from 31 to 69 years. In addition to food producers and consumers, some respondents serve in multiple capacities on state advisory boards, agencies and committees across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. 

We also:

1. Researched on-line marketplaces, examining efficacy to “virtually aggregate” and market food products as well as better understand new fulfillment needs of these shifting distribution systems affected by COVID.

2. Meaningfully engaged stakeholders such as Community Action Resource Enterprises, Clatsop Community Action, OregonFood Bank, Tillamook County Community Health Center, and Tillamook County Wellness (46 organization coalition including government with the goal of decreasing chronic diseases through improved access to healthy food and wellness related activities).

3. Performed cost/benefit analysis of mobile cold storage units as stop-gap measure and potentially permanent tactic in place of fixed facility. 

4. Examined how existing marketing channels food systems could expand via new partnerships.

5. Agreed upon measurable metrics to determine success on our collective goals

6. Joined a state-wide Food Hub Club (Oregon Community Food Systems Network) to take advantage of past lessons learned by other communities. 

7. Collectively applied for multiple grants that interrelate and build off each other for the widest possible benefits to our communities. Gathering stakeholder support through the Refinement process helped support these efforts and vice versa.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

We’ve known for a while that (nationally) our food system is broken, and becomes more broken each day as food becomes more homogenous and supply chains become longer and more globalized.  Efforts since the 70’s have manifested some solutions such Community Supported Agriculture, Community Supported Fisheries, increased prevalence of farmers markets, etc.  But these aren’t nearly enough. 

The tragedy of COVID inspired an epiphany; we have an amazing opportunity to foment change, right now.  Right now while our food supply chains are broken, while consumer habits are disrupted, and while procurement professionals of institutions and wholesale buyers now have zero options, everything is clearer than ever.  The deficiencies in our food system and supply chains are now salient national conversations and the massive public education efforts are being done for us.  Our task at hand right now it to assess, implement, learn and adapt actual solutions on the ground by investing in working capital assets, building broader social and political capital, and institutionalizing changes within the charters of city, county, special district and state charters to call out and prioritize local food security and resilience above all else. 

Examples of specific trends and signals include:

Collapse of food supply chains due to COVID.

Reactions of private sector food producers in response to COVID.

Changes in consumer behaviour.

Increased consumer interest in local food overall, including local supply and food security.

(These signals above reflected by our Refinement phase North Coast Food Vision Survey results - available upon request).

The Oregon Diabetes Report from 2015, cites recommendations for investing in access to local foods as a strategy. https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/Diabetes/Documents/OregonDiabetesReport.pdf

NOAA Fisheries estimates that the United States imports more than 80 percent of the seafood we eat: https://www.fishwatch.gov/sustainable-seafood/the-global-picture

https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/23/hidden-chains/rights-abuses-and-forced-labor-thailands-fishing-industry

The 134-page report by Human Rights Watch shows horrific conditions continue throughout our food system for foods like imported seafood while COVID has exposed additional unsafe and inhumane conditions in the excessively large consolidated meat packing industry in America.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

Jane wakes and grabs her tablet to make sure battery levels are good on the delivery drone fleet as the North Coast Food Hub will be sending supplies out to neighborhood schools today.

She pours a cup of Oregon Coast grown green tea. Out her window she can see the coastal range tea trees in the distance are saturated with a fog bank coming off the Pacific. The warm comfort from the earthy aroma reminds of her family that keep begging for more tea shipments since they fell in love with produce from this region.

Next is an early morning call with a farmer considering expanding. Video chats with farmers in the field are always fun, especially when the conversation is about keeping them in the field producing versus office work for marketing, sales, etc. Jane loved being able to see the new legume cover crop variety ag-extension bred which has quadrupled the carbon sequestration for a big nutrient boost for crops, and added carbon sequestration credits.

Flex work schedule allows Jane to focus a bit of her day on her own garden, enjoying the mid-morning sun and cultivating her specialty Asian greens before heading North to a lunch with regional stakeholders looking to invest more in infrastructure and working lands easements to ensure the next generation of food producers can succeed. 

This rooftop terrace setting atop the newest local food hub is enhanced by wafts of rosemary in the raised beds, mixed with the savory smells of Argentine asado from the food pods below, and the sound of laughter from Oregon Young Farmers Coalition meeting in the outdoor waterfront pavilion. 

The highlight of Jane’s day, however, is the 3 hour regional conference call with indigenous leaders from well beyond our region. Today’s topic is 10-year assessment of how focusing on intergenerational sustainability has provided more economic resilience and deepened cultural connections to food and the sense of interconnectedness we all have through the wider food system.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

On one hand, climate change gave a leg up to some invasive species whose populations exploded, displacing native species and ruining some habitat.  On the other hand, we made the best of it by creating recipes for invasive species; a favorite competitive pastime for local chefs trying to ‘one up’ each other. 

Resulting reduction in some formerly abundant species of fish incentivized our community to reclaim and capture waste and byproducts, such as fish grinders, capturing fermentation affluent, building more micro digesters for Tillamook dairy cow waste, diverting brewery spent grain to supplement hogs.  All in all a true success story in the reclaiming and composting integrating excesses from fish waste, farm, etc for sale back to organic food production. 

Turns out the “scale of economy” of large volume producers did not add up on a triple bottom line ledger.  Substantially increased direct to consumer relationships cut out need for larger investments in processing, packaging, storage, and distribution.  Substantially reduced supply chains translated into substantially fewer miles driven, reducing the carbon footprint.  More locally produced value added products created higher ROI but also used less natural resource per dollar return. 

Our local populations are more self-sufficient with processing and cooking raw foods materials at home (OSU Extension), thanks to the K-12 education and experience now teaches new generations (farm to school, etc) to grow food at school and community gardens.  We have embedded research with productions for real-time learning and adaptation (whiskey creek shellfish).  New species and products such as aquaculture cockle/research were brought to market, and native Pacific Groundfish, an amazing comeback story, put massive protein biomass back on the menu!

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Due to the institutionalization of our food vision, schools have become a centerpoint of food access, production, research and education in the K-12 system.  

Our youth are educated and graduate as food systems experts, but this is nothing out of the ordinary. Existing Farm to School programs were expanded decades ago, school gardens integrated with school cafeterias making federal subsidized lunches irrelevant.  Class projects allow students to bring food home to their families.  

Food is all around us here on the Northern Oregon Coast and the broader community found numerous ways to divert food from leaving the community into commodity markets.  Farmers markets as we know them are a thing of the past, because local grocery stores are now primarily stocked with local fresh foods.  K-12 students regularly become food entrepreneurs who create value-added products with longer shelf lives which stock local grocery stores, as well as healthy craft beverages and nutrient dense dishes in local restaurants. 

Even so, some coastal residents rarely enter the grocery store because their bi-weekly circuit of visiting their neighbor ranger, dairyman, fishermen or farmer before and/or after work keeps their homes supplied with the freshest, super nutrition food.  More families are cooking together and savoring unique local food sources, such as wild clams, wasabi, spruce tips, wild mushrooms, and grass-fed beef.  Recipes even exist for  invasive species, which has become a fun competitive past time for local chefs trying to ‘one up’ each other. 

Issues such as high rates of diabetes in Tillamook County are a distant memory, as the 40+ agency coalition of Tillamook County Wellness worked; better diets and increased activity had nearly eliminated it.  Food banks are also a thing of the past, as access to nutrition packed food is no longer a societal challenge. 

Former farm workers are now landowners, applying all the knowledge they once shared with employers.  These previously marginalized genders and communities of color have equal opportunities to access land, permits, and local food and our small towns blossom and grow.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

Our region in 2020 was proud of the larger number of women-owned food businesses than elsewhere in the country. This trend toward equality was accelerated and by 2050 gender disparity both in terms of access to jobs and wage differentials was gone. Local women now own a proportionate share of their boats, fishing access rights, and farms and ranches. Women also own roughly half of the food business infrastructure food producers rely on - cold storage, distribution, value add and processing kitchens, etc. In the restaurant world, women now own and run many of the most well regarded eateries in the region and have created a friendly chef challenge that brings community members of all ages and experiences together in a post-iron chef collaborative contest that continues to draw more young people into culinary arts and food production. 

We achieved this over 30 years by focusing on keeping every food dollar possible in our community, focusing on seasonal foods and sustainable season extension technology, educating consumers on “how to eat with the seasons”, and emphasizing the most flavorful and nutritious foods our region can produce as a way to draw more and more residents into local sourcing. We had a good foundation of agritourism support in 2020 and over these years our reputation catapulted our region to the top of many travelers’ wish list. By slowing economic leakage, keeping food dollars local, and attracting high quality flavor and nutrition focused agritourism we were able to shift food economics such that new farmers, fishers and ranchers who wanted a chance to produce food, plus the food related businesses that spun off in our region, were able to confidently enter the market without needing to rely on historically privilege access to financial and land wealth and other resources.

Early visionaries saw that localizing our food system required localing our financial capital systems and began investing in their neighbors and local food producers. Once we slowed economic leakage by recirculating investment earnings within our community we were able to deploy these funds in a procyclical way to preserve more and more farmland for the benefit of food producers and economic and food security of all residents. This too immediately played out in favor of not only gender equality but more equitable access and inclusion among groups that were either marginalized and lacking access to being food producers or who had not felt welcome in our communities in the early 2000s.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Oregon Coast culture, heritage and livelihoods are inseparable.  Social identities and community pride are derived from our economic survival, what we contribute and how we do it.  Our Right livelihoods.  

The deeper institutionalization of our food vision within the K-12 system will be instrumental and essential to ensuring cultural continuation.  Schools, as a centerpoint of food access, production, research and education ensure the continuation of cultural traditions of first nation people, commercial fishing families and villages, pioneer settlers of dairy farmers from North Eastern European countries, and the more recent (30 year old) foodie culture of micro production ethos.  

Within two generations of children educated under this “institutionalization” of our food vision, there will be no turning back. The social expectations that diabetes, food banks, junk food, single use packaging are things of the past will be unspoken and no longer top of mind. Locals will take pride in knowing that food dollars circulate within the community and support the success and livelihoods of their neighbors and friends.  Our Food Hub Network will include dynamic, energy efficient, multi-use facilities where professionals such as architects, engineers and artists have work space along side creative food producers - inspiring robust conversations and vibrant events in cheerful, clean, productive spaces.  Rooftop gardens and solar energy collection will be a part of the modern landscape and contribute to ongoing education and new ideas.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

For too long our food system had been using technology to produce the cheapest, fastest food possible without regard to diet, environment, or economic impact to those seeking a living from food production. When our region charted a new course that emphasized a holistic context that included local wealth creation, worker justice, land access, and environmental stewardship we began to relax our drive toward technology for maximizing production and focused on technology that improved the quality of all life including the plants and animals comprising our food system. 

The past 30 years leading up to 2050 saw more innovation in technology that provided real time feedback on improving soil biology to dramatically increase soil resilience in the face of droughts and floods as well as converting minerals and nutrients into plant available form for the ultimate benefit of healthier plants for humans and livestock. In the seafood world technology for monitoring species locations and overall ecosystem populations helped our region lead in terms of pounds of fish caught per trip while also improving overall populations and general ocean and river diversity. Within this more holistic approach and focus on profit more than gross production our region became known for some of the highest quality and most flavorful food in the world. Technological trade offs no longer either displaced a working class or relegated some sets of workers to horrible conditions but allowed communities to co-invest in ways to improve quality of life at every stage of the food system.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

As our region developed deeper cultural connections to the foods we produce, kept more food dollars local, and improved our general health and well-being we developed policies to protect and promote things that further sustained us. These policies included greenbelt legislation where towns very intentionally preserved farms and ranches as close as possible to their centers both to limit sprawl but to shorten the food chain. This legislation partnered with policies and funding to develop food processing as close as possible both to food producers and eaters in our communities. 

Because we were able to significantly slow economic leakage our various jurisdictions had more and more stable revenue and our region’s cities, towns and counties could outpace our state’s financial resources and invest in protecting working farmland and protecting and maintaining docks for greater access to commercial fishers. Working lands easements became common vernacular as development rights were permanently extinguished for the benefit of communities without diminishing the assets that so many farmers had worked hard to earn.

Our region had developed so much pride in high quality food production that new farmers of all sorts of backgrounds from home-grown to idealistic-and-educated transplants sought to make a living producing food and our region was able to help state lawmakers see the wisdom of forgiving capital gains taxes for landowners who sold to beginning/young and or farmers and ranchers historically marginalized. These same values led to revolving loan funds to participate with community banks to provide very favorable terms to this next generation of food producers, boosting their economic resilience especially in the critical early years.

Perhaps most transformational, we funded policy expert positions on behalf of our sustainable food system and achieved state and local policies that got at the root of systems of oppression historically embedded in our banking, labor and land access systems, truely and finally leveling the playing field for a just and accessible food system regardless of the family you were born into. Such policies continued to strengthen our economic resilience and create more financial and real wealth in our communities.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

There is no one answer or path to achieving our vision and we realize we must keep an open mind about solutions that may prove to be pivotal in creating lasting change.  Just as in a garden, the influence of many different elements including wind, water, light exposure, soil composition, choice of seeds, companion plants, local insects and predators, as well as the very nature and practices of the gardener, are all interconnected with constant influence on one another.  So with these 6 themes.  Our approach must be one of mindfulness and open dialogue with one another to avoid pitfalls and make forward progress toward our goals. 

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

Factors outside of a community’s control sometimes determine or limit the range of choices and options; scare funding, changing political economies, pandemics, economic downturns, recovery from acute environmental events.  Moreoften, trade-offs occur in the space of tension between long-term v’s short term priorities in an environment of limited funding opportunities.  Competition between the immediate need of poverty v's long term food security, wildfire fighting v's wildfire prevention, 

In our case, there will most likely be the tradeoff in what kind of infrastructure to invest in; mass processing for the largest “commodity” producers v’s micro processing for the smallest producers.  Either path could create economic tensions which lead to social and political tensions due to a redistribution of wealth and decision-making authority.  

Our vision toward shortening supply chains, food security and community resilience lean toward the small scale.  These are choices we are ready to take on.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

In the next three years to we must achieve the following milestones to keep our Vision of a North Coast Food Hub Network on track:

1. Recruit full time, solidly funded Regional Food System and Procurement Coordinator positions to support food producer growth and access to markets.

2. Break ground on at least one food hub facility in our region that includes commercial cold storage amenities.

3. Secure efficiencies in aggregation and distribution which translate into measurable time savings and productivity; allowing producers more time to do what they love and do best - farmers in the field, fishermen on the water and chefs in the kitchen.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

In the next ten years we must achieve the following milestones to keep our Vision on track:

1. Complete two additional “feeder” hubs that help aggregate and distribute food in region in cooperation with other food hub activities.

2. Establish a USDA certified slaughter facility on the North Coast.

3. Institutionalize our effort through embedding the goals and priorities within multiple organizations and agencies to ensure longevity of this collaborative effort. (Example: amending government community development charters to specifically call out our local food priorities, security and resilience). 


If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

1. Support funding a NW Food System Coordinator and a Procurement Specialist. Our food system spans a large region with multiple stakeholders and many supply chain points that need focused attention.  Food System Coordinator will engage food system stakeholders to improve sharing and collaboration and engage decision makers with an eye for local, regional, state, and federal policies that support fair and equitable development for our region. The Regional Procurement Coordinator will focus on supporting supply chain/food hub development by working with producers to identify issues and create solutions, while playing a “benevolent brokerage” role in supporting lasting connections between buyers and producers. Our partners at Food Roots and North Coast Food Web are moving toward these activities now so we can close their funding gap with this Food Vision Prize with only $30,000/yr over 3 years or up to $90,000 total to support these two critical capacity building coordinator positions. 

2. Provide mini-grants and/or capitalize low or no interest revolving loan programs through partners like Kiva. Access to relatively small amounts of capital can be catalysts for the next generation of farmers and “stack” nicely with other existing programs. Funds would support technical assistance programming for producers, and infrastructure or other capital projects that are typically harder to find funding for. We envision prioritizing new/beginning local producers, and existing small-/mid-scale producers who have participated in incubators, business accelerators, or technical assistance programs in our region. We envision the program providing up to $90,000 over the course of the initial 3 years. 

3. In combination with our collective expertise, we would also dedicate funds to support grant writing to navigate larger complex multi-stakeholder collaborative grants, such as some USDA grants. We envision providing $20,000 over 2 years to help leverage $500,000 of additional funding.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

The food system is intimately connected to all aspects of our region from economics, diet, environment, policy, technology and especially culture and community belongingness. 

Through a just and accessible food system we can improve the lives of all of our region’s residents as well as provide an exceptional experience for visitors who consistently seek out our region for what we can produce. The Rockefeller Food System Vision process was an inspiring catalyst to improve community engagement.  It has inspired us to work toward a collaborative and co-created food system and engage with like-minded food system partners around the globe.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

In 2050, we envision our region to be a “local food opportunity zone” where the barriers of entry are minimized and the food quality and nutrition maximized while our food dollars stay local. In this way, all of our residents benefit directly and indirectly from a robust resilient food system that considers the holistic context of our bioregion for generations to come. We tried to capture these connections in these visuals highlighting stakeholders and flows of foods in our region.

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Team (7)

Jared's profile
Jared Gardner

Role added on team:

"Jared Gardner owns and operates Nehalem River Ranch, a 100 acre grassfed beef and pastured pork farm located in Tillamook County on the north coast of Oregon that sells directly to restaurants and customers. Jared is active in the local community, helping pay forward his farming successes by leveraging his policy and finance background to help address land and capital access issues for new and beginning farmers."

Mary's profile
Tyson 's profile
Tyson Rasor

Role added on team:

"Tyson Rasor is the Fisheries and Food Systems Program Manager at Ecotrust, and is a valuable contributor to this vision and community. Tyson is helping create a holistic and robust regional food system in the Pacific Northwest by supporting community-based fishers and fishing communities engaging in sustainable harvest practices through building local markets, connecting to key resources, enabling infrastructure, and addressing supply chain barriers."

Kristen's profile
Kristen Penner

Role added on team:

"Kristen is a commercial fisherman and passionate community advocate."

Arica's profile
Arica Sears

Role added on team:

"Arica is the Destination Management Coordinator for the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). Her passion for working with rural communities comes from her deep roots in Tillamook County. As a fourth-generation resident of Pacific City, she's as comfortable in a stakeholder meeting as she is fishing off her dad's dory boat or hanging out on her uncle's dairy farm. She finds great reward in tying visitors into the coastal economy while strengthening the health and livability of this area."

Marcus's profile
Marcus Hinz

Role added on team:

"As the Executive Director of the Oregon Coast Visitor‘s Association, Marcus Hinz offers considerable public relations, organizational management and strategic planning experience to coastal communities. His entrepreneurial nature has contributed to successful projects across public, private and non-profit sectors. He also has lead the growth of the coastal water sports industry as a founding owner of Kayak Tillamook County, a local guide service started in 2005."

Amanda's profile
Amanda Gladics

Role added on team:

"With a background in marine ecology and environmental education, Amanda provides community-based education to foster sustainable fisheries and increase the public's understanding of seafood systems. At Sea Grant, she connects coastal residents and visitors to seafood producers through a range of experiential community outreach tours, events, and other engagement. She also collaborates with fishermen, researchers, and wildlife managers to develop innovative, practical solutions to reduce bycatch."

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What a great vision you have for Oregon in 2050! Although across the country in West Virginia, I see similarities with farmers wanting to see the next generations take over their land. I love how some of the food hubs will also serve as a space for community members to learn about where and how their food is grown and harvested, That is also a great way to make the community feel more connected to their food system and continue to strengthen it for future generations. Our team is looking forward to seeing your vision continue!

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