While we didn’t have the turnout that we expected for our design workshop, I still valued it. The preparation for our workshop was a lot of hard work that I feel trained me for the real world. We had to brainstorm what we wanted to do, using Ecotone’s plan as a guide. We then had to determine what tasks we had and who would do each. Devyn and I planned out the introduction, focus group time, mapping activity, and conclusion. If we would have had more of a turn out we would have been prepared. Also, if we decide to do another workshop we will be prepared. The work we had to do setting up and getting ready was good preparation as well as negotiating who in the group would do what.
We also gathered some valuable information in our design workshop. We received our first completed survey and also received some sound advice. My personal goal was to engage the kids who came so that they would view Zenger in a positive light and K and V did. I heard them say once, “This is a really fun place.” We really had an impact on our two very intelligent and informed youth participants. When they think of Zenger farm now they will picture crayons and carrots and baby turkeys. Maybe they’ll even tell their friends about Zenger farm and how fun they had.
The adult workshop was interesting to observe as a successful community input session. I saw the neighbors of Zenger get really into their different maps. I enjoyed hearing the input they had to share. Some of the points they made where very valid ones like, the problems with the Spring Water Corridor. I wasn’t aware of the problems with homeless people and the local concern for access to neighborhoods. I also enjoyed observing the similarities between the different maps and the differences. However, I noticed that there wasn’t anyone under the age of 35 at the workshop. I’m sure there are many kids and younger adults in the area and I realized just how important our work with youth really is.
I was inspired at this workshop. K’s knowledge of farming and the environment inspired me and gave me hope that future generations will care for our earth. She mentioned once that worms are great because they eat compost and make it into dirt. Her younger sister said that she didn’t like the sliminess of worms but I’m sure that K will persuade her to love worms by the time she’s five. K’s knowledge also made me wonder just who is teaching her all of this. She said that she doesn’t learn about the environment at school, but she has chickens at home.
The success of the adult design workshop also inspired me. I now realize that it is possible to receive the public’s opinion if they are informed properly. I move forward in our project aiming to achieve the feeling of success that Ecotone had at their design workshop. The youth of the Powellhurst-Lents neighborhood are waiting for us to get their input, now we just need to find them.
Door Knocking Reflection:
I really enjoyed the door-knocking on Wednesday. Though not all of the responses I received were positive, I leaned a lot from the experience. Mostly I learned that every neighborhood is different and every house is different. Some of the houses Stacy and I approached looked intimidating but were the homes of really kind, friendly people. Other houses looked more normal on the outside but housed intimidating people. I really enjoyed the conversations we had with some old couples that had lived in the neighborhood for 45 years or so. The conversations caused me to think about what the neighborhood must have looked like 50 years ago when Zenger Farm was a dairy farm.
I also enjoyed the experience because Stacy and I made a really productive team. We knocked on the door of every house on our list. At a lot of the houses, we didn’t get any answer but we left fliers at every residence. Only about two people who answered the door said they were too busy to talk to us. We also had to skip a lot of houses because of Beware Of Dog signs or No Trespassing signs. One house we skipped had a sign that read, “Warning, Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again.” I got to do both the interviews and the note taking so I felt like a valued part of Stacy and my two-some. I took notes for the first third of our houses and then we switched roles. I liked talking to people more because I felt like more of a face for Zenger. Stacy had some issues with keeping all the different papers strait while taking notes, which made me feel good about my organizational skills. She also boosted my confidence by complementing me on my interviewing job.
The main concerns of the people who we talked to seemed to be more logistical than I expected. One woman was worried about the dust that the increased traffic would cause. She suggested a speed bump but she doesn’t want a paved road because that would increase the traffic. The same woman wanted to know what would happen to the forest on the side of the property. She said that the underbrush kept people out of the forest and was worried activities would increase if the forest were removed. Another man who had just moved in was worried about how close to his property Zenger was going to develop. He liked the current quietness of the area and seemed a little worried about the increase in activity. I am also now wondering what Zenger’s plans are with the forested area.
Most of the people who answered our questions didn’t have a very strong opinion on what happens on the property. We’re going to have to reach out to the community to get their input contrary to the voluntary input I expected. I’m curious to see how many people come to our workshop. The neighborhood was different from my own partly because of the passiveness of the people towards the property. If there were a piece of land being developed on my street, the neighbors would be very involved in the process. Another difference was the vibe I got from the neighborhood. All of the signs suggested an unwelcome, isolated feeling that I’ve never experienced where I live.
Another thing that I learned from the experience is that you have to be careful in how you ask questions on a survey. When Stacy and I asked some of the people about their current uses of the land they answered no very quickly. They seemed to be defensive about the question because they knew they were not supposed to be on the land. To them, the question seemed like a question where we were trying to catch them doing something illegal. In the future, I should word questions in a way that will obtain accurate, honest answers without making people uncomfortable. I’ll use this information when drafting a survey for the youth in the schools. Overall, though I was nervous for the door-knocking at first, I really enjoyed the experience.
From my perspective, as a teacher, it was a great day. Both Catlin and PSU students worked together on behalf of Zenger Farm to collect necessary data for the project collaboration. But, more than that, we all got a chance to know the neighborhood and get a better sense of the community by walking the streets and talking to the people. Here are a few pictures of the graduate students from Portland state University's Graduate School of Urban Studies and Planning working with Catlin Gabel students in the PLACE program:
I enjoyed the door-knocking tremendously, and found that interacting directly with people in the neighborhood gave me a better insight into the area’s culture than any amount of talking to people who live elsewhere or browsing Internet statistics ever could have. This fact seems almost too obvious to state, but I found the experience of walking between houses and speaking with the people living in them honestly eye-opening.
The people Kate and I talked to received us with overwhelming friendliness. Of all the people who opened their doors when we knocked, not one refused to talk to us or seemed unwilling to participate in the survey. Some people greeted us with expressions of reservation when we said we were taking a survey, but once we explained that our purpose was to learn about the neighborhood and help an urban farm, even the initially distant warmed up.
Not a single person had been to Zenger, and most did not know it existed. A few people said they had been by “the place with the red barn,” which was the closest we got to recognition. In addition, most did not know about the Furey property, even though they lived within walking distance. Some explained this situation by blaming by the dismal state of the road. However, everyone seemed to love Zenger’s concept when we explained it to them. A lot of the neighbors had gardens and responded enthusiastically to the idea of expanding an urban farm and building a community garden. When we asked people if they found any of the potential uses of the Furey lot concerning, the general response was something along the lines of “Any of that stuff sounds better than just leaving a vacant lot.”
The neighborhood certainly differed from my own. I live in suburban Lake Oswego, a land of huge multi-story houses, paved sidewalks, manicured playgrounds, and driveways in front of every house hosting multiple shiny cars. The area around the Furey lot has smaller, older houses, no sidewalks, bumpy roads, and few new cars. Many people had dogs, and many dogs live in my neighborhood, too. But the dogs where I live bask on their owners’ verdant lawns and get walked on leashes and play with their family’s children, whereas these dogs seemed to serve the more as protectiors than playmates. Lake Oswego also boasts negligible ethnic diversity, whereas Powellhurst-Gilbert is home to assorted minority groups. Kate and I didn’t encounter any language barriers in our survey group, but we know from some of the other knockers that Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, and Chinese immigrants all live nearby.
The survey gave us good data, and assuming that Ecotone completed their canvassing on Saturday, we now have a lot to work with. The primary conclusion, in my mind, was that Zenger has nearly no recognition in the community, and therefore needs to seriously increase their local involvement if they want their neighbors to know about them.
We started out this week trying to figure out what category Zenger farm fits into: urban, rural, or suburban? We talked about how the farm is really a mix of all of these different categories. It sits conveniently close to downtown Portland, making it more urban, but it’s also far enough away from the hustle and bustle of downtown to feel rural. An additional important issue to address is what category the people who use and need Zenger think it fits into. In this discussion of urban versus rural we talked about the issues that rural areas of America face in regard to planning. I had never considered the lack of rural planners to be an issue. In our previous weeks of learning and reading about urban planning and the relationship between urban and rural neighborhoods, we had not talked about the troubles of rural planning. Some other interesting issues included the lack of funding for rural planning, the difficulty in achieving cultural diversity in rural America, and the dangers of toxic waste faced by rural residents. We then ended the week with an activity called a “privilege walk” where our instructor said different statements and we had to step away from the group if they pertained to us. The questions helped us think about who we are and how that’s going to affect our project with Zenger. It helped us realize how different we really are from the Powellhurst-Gilbert students. We had been discussing whether or not it would be beneficial to the project to keep our private school status more or less a secret. We also talked about how talking with other high school students from the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood might not be such a good idea because of the difficulty for them in expressing their concerns regarding food insecurity to their peer age group. We’ve established that it’s going to be a touchy subject but it’s very important that someone on the project reaches the high school students. The part of the privilege walk exercise that really stuck out for me was the similarities within our group. There were only a few questions were the group didn’t all step out together or all remain in one line. Some statements made me wonder how we’re going to talk with the youth of such a different neighborhood from Catlin Gabel and get honest, useful responses. The statement, “You are not followed when you enter a store” confused and impacted me the most. I realized that I really don’t know what the youth of this neighborhood feel and want so we’re going to have to do a lot of listening and asking questions.
Find more information on the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood at:
See attached document for pictures of the neighborhood!
As our project begins to take form, our class is trying to understand the bigger picture. Before we can delve into planning this specific project, we have to understand the idea, to get a grasp on what Zenger Farm, is, what it can be, what Portland needs it to be, and what time and change will do to it. Portland, Oregon is at the leading edge of planning and development, and provides a sound base for our class to expand on. Our class hopes to take advantage of Portland’s vast Urban Planning scheme and Smart Growth systems. Smart Growth is the pre-planned itinerary for development and sprawl for the Portland region. There are mixed feelings on the subject; many believe that restricting outward development and suburban sprawl helps us conserve the agricultural and environmentally protected land that we cherish, while many others believe that this restriction of growth becomes a constriction of economy and progress. Due to the administration of METRO, Portland currently has a comprehensive Smart Growth plan, and as it affects our Zenger Farm project, it provides a good start in better understanding the bigger picture of what Zenger is, and what it means to Portland’s plan.
We recently spent three class periods watching the documentary Making Sense of Place – Portland: Quest for the Livable City. The film detailed Portland’s system of urban planning, the history of the urban growth boundary, and the function of our Metro government. We learned that the urban growth boundary was instituted with the passage of state Senate Bill 100 in 1973, and Metro, a tri-county regional government that now regulates that boundary, was established shortly afterward. We came to appreciate how unique the Portland metro area is in its approach to planning. Few cities pay such close attention to the type of growth they want to see, nor is livability often such a high priority as it is here. The film touted the Portland’s planning as the force that shaped a city that people want to live in, with efficient public transportation, pedestrian-friendly multi-use neighborhoods, abundant green space, and well-preserved nearby farmland. It also described some of the contention around the ballot measures 37 and 49, illustrating the discontent some people have with the urban growth boundary and Metro’s system. Although proponents enjoy the healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits that dense urban planning encourages, others think Portland’s growth is too controlled. Some people feel that what happens to property should be up to owners’ judgment, not to the city. As enlightening as the film was, we did want to see more perspectives from people in lower income brackets who suffer from the high housing prices that have accompanied Portland’s urban planning. Almost no minorities appeared in the documentary, and its message was almost overwhelmingly positive. Overall, Making Sense of Place gave us a better understanding of how Metro and urban planning works, but left it in our hands to dig for a deeper sense of balance.
If you want to learn more, here are some links worth visiting:
http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/making-sense-of-place/portland/ (information about the film)
http://www.metro-region.org/ (Metro's website)
All the Portland school children know about it, and some of the grown ups, but so far Zenger farm is an unintentionally well-kept secret. Down Foster Road next to Brookside Park, you can find a red farmhouse with a solar paneled roof, and a sign over the driveway, high enough for a school bus to travel under. A sign near the cob structure (made with straw, clay and sand) with bicycle wheels sticking out of it, gives an overview of the history for visitors and school trippers. There, we met with Jill Kuehler, the executive director and she gave us a tour of the place. First, we met Jake, the farm dog, who has free rein. Then we started walking to the feilds, we saw skeletal apple and kiwi trees lining the path, along with some less than fruitful blueberry bushes. Now, in the middle of January, the fields themselves look out of commission, engulfed in weeds. We were informed however, that the ‘weeds’ are clover, rye, fava beans, and peas, a cover crop that they grow in the off-season to regenerate and add more nitrogen to the soil. Next on the tour, is the chicken coop. Lots of sleek, black-feathered Australorp chickens, interspersed with a few different other varieties, peck at the ground and give off that calming ‘clucking’ noise. Zenger also has a couple of green houses, but they don’t have much growing in them besides some tops of carrots that are beginning to sprout. As we get around the farmhouse, we see the honeybee hives, and the five plots used by five families from Laos as their own personal crops. There, we stop and chat a little with Jill about the other programs the Farm offers. They are beginning again an Immigrant Farmer Training Program and a bunch of other classes to teach the community how to cook healthily. As a possibly model for our project, Jill tells us about Growing Power, another urban farm in Milwaukie (where almost all is in a greenhouse) little confusing! Reword. They have created a multi-level water filtration system using fish nutrients for plants and plant nutrients for the fish. To learn more about Growing Power in Milwaukie, and their revolutionary farming techniques, go to http://growingpower.org/aquaponics.htm.
To learn more about Zenger Farm, go to www.zengerfarm.org