Growing a Sustainable Portland Metropolitan Foodshed

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $223,014.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Sheila Martin
Portland State University, IMS

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (other), berries (strawberries)
  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, farm-to-institution, agricultural finance, market study, agritourism
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    The Portland metropolitan region is known for its innovative approach to sustainability and regional land use planning. As the region has grown, the State of Oregon’s land use planning laws have protected large tracts of farmland in the Portland region from development. However, many small, productive farms continue to experience development pressures. This project will create an assessment of the Portland region’s sustainable agriculture system and provide tools and strategies for growers and local governments. This approach engages producers, academics, elected leaders, natural resource agencies and the City of Damascus. This project will define the metropolitan foodshed and utilize producer input to develop a needs assessment to advance the regional food economy. It will produce a case study of the Portland region and City of Damascus and a regional foodshed strategy. This will include a comprehensive toolkit that will address market improvements and operational and regulatory strategies to support the successful enhancement of agriculture in the region and City of Damascus. The project will also provide education and outreach to growers and producers, public officials, and other partners identified in the project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. The first objective (priority) is to define the regional foodshed and develop a foodshed sustainability strategy. To meet this objective, we will conduct a regional foodshed analysis with specific emphasis on trends in demand for local food, direct marketing to consumers and institution, import substitution, value added processing of local products, changes in the characteristics of urban-influenced farms, and exports of local products. The performance target for this task is to characterize the scope, nature, and trends of the regional food economy.

    2. The second objective is to understand and articulate the barriers and opportunities faced by urban-influenced farmers in our region (situation and priorities). To meet this objective, we will conduct a needs assessment of those farms to form the basis for the next step in the process. The deliverable is the needs assessment. The performance target is the number of producers and stakeholders engaged in the assessment. We expect challenges to fall into three categories: 1) Operational and on-farm practices; 2) Land use and regulatory issues; and 3) Market and economic issues. We will focus our assessment on each of these areas.

    3. The third objective is to design a toolkit (output). To accomplish this, we will identify and assess best practices for overcoming the barriers and taking advantage of the opportunities identified in Objective 2. The best practices will include methods for marketing and stimulating local demand for and supply of locally produced food; land use tools to encourage and support farms near urban areas; and operational tools that will assist farmers in taking advantage of their proximity to population centers while mitigating the negative effects of their location. Based on input by producers and agricultural professionals, the toolkit will address:

    • The Triple Bottom Line and The Natural Step and relationship to regional agriculture (outcome/ultimate impacts)
    • Linking supply and demand and increasing the demand for and supply of local food products (outcome/short- and medium-term)
    • Increasing farm performance or reducing the cost of operation (outcome/medium- and long-term)
    • Increasing land available or protected for farming near urban areas (outcome/medium- and long-term)
    • Protecting farmland outside and use of farmlands within the urban growth boundary (outcome/medium- and long-term)
    • Identifying innovative funding sources for urban and regional agricultural strategies to support producers success (outcomes/medium-term)

    4. The fourth objective is to ensure that the toolkit will be used by and useful to farmers, planners, public officials and others who participate in and influence the market environment for local food (outputs/who we reach and outcomes/short-term). The tools will be tested in a case study in the City of Damascus by several producers in the area and will be evaluated based on whether it addresses economic, environmental, and community sustainability goals. In addition, local planners will test the potential usefulness of the regulatory tools, including flexible land use regulations. Consumers will help evaluate tools that are designed to stimulate the supply of and demand for local food. The deliverable for this objective will be the Damascus case study of the toolkit. The performance targets will be the impact on the Triple Bottom Line of the application of the tools.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.