Stacey Sobell, Food & Farms Director
721 NW 9th Ave, Ste. 200, Portland, OR 97209
Ecotrust works to foster a natural model of development that creates more resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems. In the food and farms sector, Ecotrust aims to build a robust regional food system that is environmentally sound, socially just, and economically viable. We help large volume food buyers, such as public schools, navigate the obstacles to sourcing local food, open market access for small and midsize regional producers, and develop the necessary infrastructure to connect the regional food economy.
Ecotrust is dedicated to building robust regional food economies because they help communities withstand shocks to which the globalized system is vulnerable. At the same time, regional food economies provide financial, social, and environmental benefits to the same communities who depend on these systems for food.
In order to build high-functioning regional food economies, we believe retailers, foodservice operators, restaurateurs, and other high-volume food businesses will need to access a portion of their supply from distributed regional networks of family-scale, socially responsible producers and processors. Those suppliers will need to comply with food safety regulations, liability insurance and traceability requirements, regardless of their scale. And in order to meet the high-volume demands of large food buyers, family-scale producers and processors will need a means of aggregating and distributing product through a regional network. Ecotrust and our partners are working to develop efficient, financially viable, scale-appropriate means of growing, aggregating, processing, and distributing food within a foodshed.
Our projects within this initiative focus in three areas:
- Big Buyers: Most people access food via an intermediary, such as a grocery store,restaurant, or dining facility at their school, workplace, healthcare facility, etc., which in turn purchase from distributors or brokers. The supply chains serving big buyers are extremely complex. Ecotrust helped launch the NW Food Buyers Alliance, a peer-to-peer network of institutional foodservice buyers, to begin building the capacity to overcome the significant barriers to regional sourcing at scale.
- Food Infrastructure: Many of the barriers big buyers face could be overcome by coordinating food aggregation, processing, and distribution infrastructure to connect them efficiently to regional producers. Ecotrust produced an Oregon Food Infrastructure Gap Analysis, funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, which documented food infrastructure capacity and gaps in Oregon, and highlighted opportunities for catalytic development. Our newest initiative, the Redd on Salmon Street, is a two-block campus in SE Portland designed to nurture and scale a robust regional food economy.
- Ag of the Middle: In the latter half of the last century, 5 million farms were lost toconsolidation or urban development—many of these being midsized or family-scale operations. To build a robust regional food economy, a new midsize producer cohort must be cultivated. We are working to identify small producers poised to grow, and then help them gain access to capital, land, and technical expertise to facilitate that growth.