Chickens, Cover Crop and Cob

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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.

The whole of Zenger farm looks down on a 17-acre wetland. You can see ducks and wildlife all around, as well as little people walking their dogs on the paths on the other side.  Straight over the wetland, if there were to be a path made, is the land, which Zenger Farm has asked us to plan.  Currently, in order to get there you need to go down a very bumpy-ill-maintained road to reach the unused 4 acres.  It mostly is clear, but all along the edges, separating it from the wetland are blackberry bushes.  If only we could get some goats down there to start working on clearing it…
To learn more about Zenger Farm, go to www.zengerfarm.org