The fight to save the Farm

Greenspace Not Brownstone is mobilizing and organizing a growing campaign to save the Farm from development. The "Brownstone" in the group’s name refers to Brownstone Homes LLC which plans to turn the Farm’s seven lush acres into a subdivision of twenty-three luxury condos. The Farm’s full name is Tryon Life Community Farm (TLC), an educational non-profit located on seven acres bordering Tryon Creek State Park which is accessible to the public.

The focus of Greenspace Not Brownstone (GNB) is preventing the environmental destruction Brownstone Homes LLC may bring with development, including damage to the watershed and nearby Tryon Creek which bears steelhead and is one of the few wild spaces remaining within the city. The proposed development would also take from rather than add to the natural beauty of the area.

Many organizations including Friends of Tryon Creek, the Arnold Creek Neighborhood Association, the City Repair Project, the Coalition for a Livable Future and Dignity Village also oppose development.

GNB was formed to preserve the Farm and hold off development while money is raised to buy the land. While GNB is not affiliated with the Farm, both groups focus on community and environmental preservation. Currently the Farm has seventeen residents and as part of its educational mission offers community workshops and classes on outdoor education, permaculture gardening, watershed restoration, and Earth-friendly building techniques. On site is a cob sauna built during last year’s Village Building Convergence which is free and open to the public.

If you are interested in helping to save the Farm contact Greenspace Not Brownstone at For more information on the TLC Farm see .

Interview with a Greenspace activist

Recently Street Roots’ columnist Jack Tafari caught up with Morgan, a fully-engaged Greenspace Not Brownstone (GNB) activist who is part of GNB’s current effort to save the Farm and had a few questions for her. Greenspace Not Brownstone is a group of community activists formed to let the developer know just how difficult and unwelcome the proposed development really is and Morgan’s replies are complete, Ital and unabridged.

SR: "Morgan, do you think you might tell our readers a little about the Farm? Can you describe it for us?"

Morgan: "Tryon Life Community Farm, or "the Farm," as it is affectionately called, sits on a beautiful 7 acre piece of land in SW Portland. The land is surrounded on three sides by Tryon Creek State Park, a 652 acre treasure not far from downtown. The first time I went to the Farm, it was in the spring-time. I walked through the State Park and when I arrived, there were the cutest little goats frolicking on the Farm, munching on blackberries. I later learned that the goats were there to keep the blackberries from taking over the land and so that the gardens could be expanded.

"I couldn’t believe I was still in the city. Each new piece of the land that I discovered brought a smile to my face, as I thought about the work and creativity that went into building such a magical place. My favorite part of the Farm is the bonsai garden. The first time I saw the garden, it captured my attention for almost an hour, as I greeted each little plant. And since it was spring-time, the flowering tree in the bonsai garden was literally dripping with bright white flowers. My introduction to the Farm was quite impressive.

"The land is very well-cared for by dedicated and passionate folks who want to create a place where they can feel in harmony with their surroundings and connected to community. The projects that are constantly happening at the Farm create an empowering atmosphere of experimentation, discovery, and "do-it-yerself" spirit. Anyone who has a skill to share or wants to learn a skill has been welcome to come to the Farm and participate in the building of a sustainability-minded community. For this openness and possibility, the Farm brings a much-needed resource to Portland."

SR: It’s a beautiful setting out there and the work residents are doing to build the organizational and financial infrastructure to buy the land is impressive. What’s most attractive about the Farm to you?

Morgan: "Undoubtedly, it is the community — and the residents’ dedication to building community through the Farm. The future of the Farm depends on bringing people from all walks of life together to share skills and knowledge. When a group of folks comes together to practice their vision of an ideal world, the project is stronger and more stable if the group is diverse. Just like an eco-system — a project is more stable when the elements are diverse and many. The Farm has already gotten input of a variety of people, and it wants to see the Farm become a resource to bring people from all backgrounds and communities together. This goal is inspiring to me."

SR: Why is the Farm unique in Portland?

Morgan: "The Farm is a 7-acre plot of land surrounded by State Park in the city of Portland. These characteristics in themselves are unique. But I think the vision of the residents and the potential of the Farm make it especially unique. With the village building convergence and other projects like it, Portland is starting to make sustainability and real community a reality. The potential for these two things at the Farm will be incredible. Portland is ready for an opportunity to put its visions of sustainability to work."

SR: What future projects does the Farm plan to undertake?

Morgan: "Many of the Farm’s plans are explained on Basically, the idea is to build an example of a sustainable community. The Farm will incorporate the ideas of permaculture, natural building, water reclamation, and renewable forms of energy to create community space and a living experiment in sustainability."

SR: Besides the future projects that have already been discussed, do you see other potential in the Farm?

Morgan: "I see a place for the visitors of Tryon Creek State Park, neighbors and anyone else to come and experience a unique way to exist in the world."

SR: You see the Farm as an antidote to the problems of the world! Why?

Morgan: "Absolutely! And right now, with the threat of a cookie-cutter suburban development looming near, the Farm is a very literal example of an antidote to the problems of the world. I keep thinking about what would bring more to Portland — the Farm or a totally generic and thoughtless housing development. The housing development represents everything that is wrong with the world today — painful isolation among community members; class hierarchy; blatant, arrogant environmental destruction, and senseless and thoughtless planning and design. The Farm is a collective effort by a diverse community to make a world in harmony with the living Earth and each other. This is so rare in today’s modernized world."

SR: Why is there such opposition with the Farm and to making sustainability a reality?

Morgan: "The momentum of "modern" civilization is so intense that it has the tendency to steam-roll anything that comes in its path. I also think that people see that sustainability does not make them quick and easy money. There is much dedication and planning that goes into a sustainability project. Most people just want to take the easy way out — the route that has already been plowed and paved over for them. It takes creativity and perseverance to get off that fast-moving and homogenous track to nowhere."

SR: What hurdles will the Farm have to overcome in the next few months?

Morgan: "The biggest hurdle is eviction. The Farm residents want to buy the land for the same amount as the developer, and their plan is not risky at all. The landowner just doesn’t believe in their vision and so on a general level I think the biggest hurdle, besides eviction, is getting nay-sayers to believe in the project."

SR: I know Dignity Village and many other organizations endorse and support the Farm. How can more people in the community get involved?

Morgan: "Currently, people can give a call to Brownstone Homes LLC at (503) 598-7565 and tell them that they think their development plan for this parcel of land is a bad idea. The land is in an environmental conservation zone, so the review by the city will be extremely stringent. There are many other hurdles that the developer must clear to develop the land, and he must see what a ridiculous idea the development is."

"If the developer buys the land, the Farm folks will be out of a home — so the most immediate concern for the Farm is to get the developer to abandon their plan. Then if the Farm residents are able to stay, there will be many opportunities for the community to get involved. There will be workshops, work parties, school outings, and much more."

SR: Morgan, thanks so much for your time in talking with us. It’s been a pleasure.