Last night I attended the monthly Association dinner at Union/Pine, wherein guest speakers are invited to lead and intimate evening of conversation over great food, flowers, drinks, and decor that all showcase the work of small local businesses. I was invited to this edition by Kelley Roy of ADX and Portland Made, who used the evening as a way to introduce a new partnership being forged with Stargazer Farm, in Sandy.
Through ADX and Portland made, Roy has been on the forefront of an effort to preserve and regenerate manufacturing in the city—not just the apparel and craft products that get a lot of attention, but more prosaic if crucial items like mattresses and bike parts. Stargazer, meanwhile, is trying to foment support as a rural, food-based counterpart, and the two movements are bridging together under their shared priorities. One thing they both have in common is a sense of urgency: The infrastructure of local manufacturing exists in its industrial districts, where buildings are already equipped for making things, though imperiled by the fashion for being bought up and converted into office space and cool loft residences. Likewise, the farmland outside the city is being bought up by hobbyists, making it unavailable for small-business food production. With less than 10% of the food eaten in Portland restaurants coming from local sources, and much of the country's economic pain being attributable to the loss of domestic manufacturing across industries, the argument that we can't afford to let this capacity to manufacture food and goods disappear.
How exactly the partnership's efforts will manifest is somewhat unclear—there was the sense as Roy spoke that she was sticking to the big picture concept without getting into the nitty grittys of their plans—but incubating small farmers and giving them the tools (literally, there is talk of a farm tool library) to get started, along with the type of small-business guidance ADX is already providing on the urban front, as well as continuing to connect producers with consumers. One of the aspects of the projects Roy is involved with that I find particularly compelling is their awareness of the importance of creating metrics that clearly show the capacity for job creation in the city and state. They're the kinds of numbers that translate into the political realm, and are far more useful than idyllic platitudes. I'm hoping to make it out to Stargazer soon for a closer read on their plans, so stay tuned for more developments.