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



    The goals of the study are to:

    • Define the Portland Metropolitan Foodshed; identify related agricultural and economic trends and develop a needs assessment based on input from producers and other stakeholders.

    • Assemble a regional toolkit of strategies to support evolution of a sustainable Portland Metropolitan Foodshed.

    • Work with the City of Damascus, Oregon to test the toolkit on a local level.

    • Develop a research and educational program that supports these goals and supports small- and medium-size farmers in the region.

    Methodology and Timeline

    We completed this project in two phases.In Phase I, we identified the key barriers and opportunities faced by urban-influenced farmers so that we could proceed with designing the toolkit in Phase II.

    In Phase II, we developed tools for growers, planners and policy makers, conducted outreach to obtain feedback on the tools, then designed outreach materials which currently reside on our web site at

    Data Sources

    The data sources for this project included the following:

    Literature review.

    We conducted an extensive review of the literature covering approaches to food system analysis, case studies of regional food systems, issues facing farmers in urban areas and studies of the Portland Metropolitan foodshed.

    Economic analysis.

    We conducted an extensive analysis of available data about the region’s food economy.

    Interviews and survey data.

    To identify the key barriers, challenges and opportunities, we conducted a survey completed by 81 farmers and aspiring farmers and face-to-face interviews with five farmers. We followed up with a number of them for a second survey that assessed the toolkit. We also used the results of a survey of more than 1,000 Clackamas County agricultural producers as a source of tools recommendations.

    Case Farm scenarios.

    We conducted extensive case studies on three farms in the Portland metropolitan region to gain greater insight into the challenges facing their operations and to assess the usefulness of some of the tools in our toolkit.

    Damascus Case Study.

    We conducted a case study to assess the tools impact on Damascus, an urbanizing community in the Portland Metropolitan region.


    The primary output of this project is a set of tools that farmers and policy makers can use to overcome barriers and take advantage of opportunities for creating a more sustainable Portland metropolitan foodshed. The tools are contained in our final report and on the project web site at Intermediate outputs of the project include a vision of a sustainable Portland metropolitan foodshed, survey results that describe barriers and opportunities, a literature review, and an economic analysis of the Portland metropolitan foodshed.

    Key findings

    Given the challenges and opportunities facing farmers in the Portland region, we believe that the food system can benefit from the development of the tools we developed to address a number of the barriers and opportunities described.

    Project objectives:

    To assess our work, we proposed a number of metrics:

    • Acceptance of the concept of the Metropolitan Foodshed vision and definition by producer groups and local governments;

    • Adoption of tools in the Toolkit by producers, consumers and government officials;

    • New or expanded forms of partnership among producers, consumers and government officials to strengthen the regional food economy;

    • The use of and acceptance of Triple Bottom Line and the Natural Step and relationship to regional agriculture by producer and public organizations;

    • New links between food supply and demand and increasing the demand for and supply of local food products;

    • Increasing farm performance or reducing the cost of operations from farms included in the case farm scenarios;

    • Adoption of farm land policies in the City of Damascus according to the Damascus case study;

    • Use of or acceptance of the Toolkit by Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water Conservation districts to focus more attention on urban and fringe agriculture.

    In addition, we aimed to involve as many producers as possible in the study to ensure that the toolkit benefited from the input of a wide variety of producers.

    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.