The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded Portland’s Zenger Farm with an equity agreement.
PORTLAND, Ore., April 20, 2023 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded Portland’s Zenger Farm with an equity agreement.
Located in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of outer east Portland, Zenger Farm is a 24-acre working urban farm and wetland that “models, promotes, and educates about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all.”
The two-year agreement started in 2022 and supports USDA equity and urban priorities to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved communities.
The agreement provides resources to Zenger Farm’s Beginning Farmer Apprenticeship and intern program, emphasizing work with beginning farmers that identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
“NRCS Oregon is excited to advance the USDA’s urban and equity initiatives in Portland,” said Ron Alvarado, NRCS Oregon State Conservationist. “Zenger Farm is a shining example of both initiatives, creating an equitable space for community members to gather, grow and learn together on an urban farm.”
Beginning Farmer Apprentices work on the farm from early spring to fall and take a diverse array of trainings to include best practices for water conservation, soil health, nutrient management, financial planning, organic certification, managing a farm operation, along with many other relevant topics. At the end of their training, apprentices increase their skills and knowledge on small-scale diversified vegetable farming and climate-smart practices and can take that knowledge with them if they pursue careers in agriculture or decide to start their own farm.
The apprentices also learn about NRCS conservation programs from NRCS Oregon staff to help promote outreach and education on technical and financial resources available to urban, historically underserved and beginning farmers in the Portland area.
“We are excited to continue our work towards building a just, equitable food system through our Beginning Farmer Apprenticeship Program in collaboration with NRCS Oregon,” said Surabhi Mahajan, Zenger Farm Program Manager. “We appreciate the USDA’s focus on underserved farmers as we know providing a stipend for education decreases barriers for BIPOC participants to enter the field of agriculture.”
The overall goal of the program is to increase the number of farms owned and operated by socially disadvantaged farmers who are trained in climate-smart farming practices, while also extending outreach and education on NRCS Farm Bill programming.
See photos from Zenger Farm’s 2022 fall season here.
USDA is working to support urban agriculture as it plays an important role in growing not only fresh, healthy food, often where grocery stores are scarce, but also providing jobs and local green spaces. NRCS is providing funding through various initiatives to ensure that programs and services are made accessible to all NRCS customers equitably with an emphasis on reaching underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and landowners.
USDA is committed to serving the needs of all kinds of agriculture, including urban agriculture and related benefits of extending regional and local food production and increasing access to healthy, fresh food.
The 2018 Farm Bill established the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) to better focus on the needs of urban farmers. NRCS leads the USDA-wide office, including representatives from other USDA agencies like Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.