Party raises hopes – and funds – for Urban Grange

If you haven’t heard about the plans to build a new grange hall at Zenger Farm, take a look at this…

Guests line up, as the Zenger Farm Urban Grange fundraiser gets underway in the Lents neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The “National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry”, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest nationwide agricultural advocacy group.

And, while it started in Oregon amid farmers’ fields decades ago, the Russellville Grange in Parkrose and the Pleasant Valley Grange Hall, on the Gresham border at SE Foster Road, have turned into urban grange halls. Neighborhoods and business centers were built around them, replacing agricultural land.

Now, some of the same community members who, eighteen years ago, took on the challenge of turning 16 acres of overgrown outer East Portland farm fields and a dilapidated farmhouse into Zenger Farm, hosting 7,000 students annually for field trips, are seeking to create an Urban Grange at the site.

Zenger Farm Field Day Leader Margret Harburg shows guests an illustration of the proposed Urban Grange, slated for groundbreaking next spring.

Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director David Porter and Zenger Farm Executive Director Jill Kuehler share a light moment at the fundraiser.

“The Urban Grange is part of our expansion plan, said Zenger Farm Director Jill Kuehler at an outdoor fundraising gala held in the site of the Lents International Farmers Market the evening of August 15.

“In our Master Plan done in 2000, two projects were identified,” Kuehler told East Portland News. “The first was the renovating the existing farmhouse, which we completed in 2008.

“The other project was building the Urban Grange – a facility that will broaden our availability as an open-air classroom and expand our role as an educational, economic, and environmental resource for our community,” Kuehler added.

This modern facility will feature classic architectural design, blending into the farm’s hillside. Zenger Farm architectural rendering

More than just adding a classroom, Kuehler said this building will function like the Grange Halls of years gone by. “It was the farm community’s gathering place, where people come together, hold meetings, community dinners, and square dances. There really isn’t an equivalent in an urban setting today.

“We’re trying to create this in and for East Portland. It will be a place where people come to learn about how and where food is grown, both from experts and from one another – here in the city.”

Clarice Keating and Megan Gardiner look at some of the many raffle items available at the fundraiser.

Event organizer Karen Wolfgang checks in guest Kate Carone.

The organizer of the gala, Karen Wolfgang of Independence Gardens, said she’s passionate about the Zenger Farms’ work and the Urban Grange project, because her company helps its customers create new garden spaces, and problem-solve their garden issues.

Four of their staff members pitched in to create and run the fundraiser, along with the help of about a dozen volunteers associated with Zenger Farm.

“I’m excited to introduce more people to Zenger Farm, and to the Urban Grange concept,” Wolfgang remarked while checking in guests. “Part of this is to build support and collaboration that furthers both small- and large-scale urban agriculture.”

Camilo Perez, Jamie Melton, Andres Perez, and Caitlin Burke with Hacienda CDC open the food line, serving Lents resident Jennifer Dynes.

The fundraising effort for the Zenger Farm Urban Grange is ongoing, Wolfgang added. Find out how you can get involved, at their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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