Supper in Stumptown - An Urban Farm Experience in Portland Oregon
The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen is an urban farm in North East Portland, Oregon. The farm grows a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Sitting on one acre of land, this urban farm has become a community staple. Just twenty minutes from downtown Portland, The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen operates it's own catering company and supplies several local restaurants.
In addition to their direct sales and catering operation, the farm is a place to learn, grow, tie the knot, and catch an outdoor movie. The farm was started in 2009 by Chef Stacey Givens. Stacey shared her farm story and offered tips for managing farm experiences with Bekor. As the only urban farm highlighted in the series, The Side Yard Farm provides an example of how all types of farms can use their operation to build on the experience economy.
The Side Yard Farm journey began while Stacey was working at a restaurant as a chef, and tending to their rooftop garden. When that restaurant closed, she continued to work as a chef but decided to start her own farm on a quarter of an acre. Stacey began to sell what she grew on her plot to local chefs. From the beginning, Stacey was intentional about the farm becoming a venue space. In the first year of her operation, she started the farm supper and brunch. As people began visiting the farm they inquired about teaching a class or hosting an event on the farm.
Stacey began to invite chefs and food cart owners in Portland to be a part of different events. As the farm grew, resources that were helpful to the farm’s development were the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Travel Portland. The NRCS provided funding for drip irrigation and a high tunnel. Travel Portland provided sponsorship for the farm’s Seed-To-Plate Tour in Japan. A couple years into her operation she started the catering company and created the Lost Table Grief Group. The Lost Table is a potluck dinner on the farm of a small group of (15 – 20) people that have experienced a loss. Stacey describes the Lost Table as one of her favorite things. In addition to the catering and the grief group, she added cooking classes to the farm. Though the classes are not revenue drivers for the farm, they bring people out and serve as advertising for their other offerings. In the ten years since it’s opening, The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen has had an overwhelming reception from the community.
Stacey’s expertise as a professional chef guided the development of her first farm experiences. Ten years later, both the farm and the experiences have grown. Currently, The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen hosts events in 5 categories of farm experiences, including Arts & Entertainment, Dining, Education & Training, Recreation, & Space Rental. They host 9 different experiences throughout the year that include the following:
Arts & Entertainment
Bike in Movie Night
Lost Table Grief Group
Education & Training
Mason Bee Workshop
Build your own wood fired cob oven
Seed to plate cooking classes
Yoga at the farm
Birthday, Wedding, & Meeting Rental
The experiences are just a snapshot of what the farm offers as they also provide programming as opportunities arise, like a single day Kids' Camp for schools that have reached out to the farm, and other programs for at – risk youth. Stacey has also brought her unique farm experience overseas. She hosts a Seed-To-Plate Tour in Japan annually. On her tour she lectures and conducts demonstrations on urban farming, and prepares farm to table meals with local ingredients.
In our conversation with Stacey we asked about the challenges and unexpected aspects of developing her farm and operating farm experiences. Here's what she shared with us.
A Balancing Act
Stacey describes the balancing act of doing it all as a challenge. In the very beginning she was still working in restaurants and didn't have a crew, just a few volunteers. Then she had to balance trying to grow the business while experiencing the loss of her father. Though each stage brought about a new aspect to balance it also brought new opportunities for the farm. It was through her personal loss that she created the Lost Table Grief Group.
Situated within a neighborhood, the farm is a surprise for those that don't know it's there. Sometimes visitors invite themselves in to look around, even if the farm is closed. Managing unexpected visitors when in the midst of meeting with catering clients or tending to other farm needs can be challenging to operate around.
Tips & Advice
To end our conversation we asked Stacey the best advice that she would share with farmers interested in developing their own farm experiences. Here's what she had to say:
Have systems in place to run your farm experience because "it's a balancing act."
Do Research & Hire Experts
"Do your research and invite people out...Don’t try to do something that you don’t know how to do, get an expert in there and have them do it." Stacey mentioned that it was easy for her to sell to restaurants because she was a chef, but she didn't have the farm experience. She did her research, and contacted people that had the experience that she didn't.
Build A Team
Stacey suggests calling on folks in the community and her best piece of advice is to, “Never burn bridges and build your f*cking village!”
To learn more about The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen and to keep up with what they’re doing check them out here.