In Portland, a Woman-Owned Farm Adapts to the COVID-19 Crisis

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April 2, 2021

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(PORTLAND, Or.) — Even a global pandemic can’t stop Portland’s hardworking farmers from getting people the food they need. Vibrant Valley Farm, ten miles from the city, adjusted to their customers’ needs throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Woman-owned Vibrant Valley Farm is based on Sauvie Island. Kara Gilbert started the farm with her best friend Elaine Walker in 2013 and considers it “a really incredible space for women to thrive, and flip the script on farming.” 

The farm raises vegetables for restaurants and a successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. They also offer flowers for the Portland Flower Market, and sell dye plants like indigo for fabric dying.

When the pandemic hit, Gilbert knew Vibrant Valley would need to adapt.

“You have this vessel here of a farm, where people need to feel safe because we can’t work from home,” she told The Click. “So at the end of the day, we’re doing everything we normally have to do, we just have to change all our systems.“

Vibrant Valley adjusted to what their community needed, which was more produce at home. Thanks to an uptick in CSA orders, Gilbert says the farm made the same amount of money as the year prior. 

Even before COVID-19, Vibrant Valley Farm put local needs first. They employ regenerative farming techniques, and work to diversify the plants they grow and reduce their plastic intake. Gilbert strives to use farming practices that honor those who occupied Sauvie Island (originally called Wapato Island), before colonialism—primarily the Chinook Tribe.

For Gilbert, the deeper shift over the past year has been internal. As the pandemic shed light on global inequality, Gilbert was reminded of why she got into farming in the first place.

“I got into this work because I was a social justice advocate who wanted young people to be involved in farming,” she said.

She’s appreciated the paradigm shift the pandemic and last summer’s racial justice movement has provided. 

Gilbert credits other farms like Good Rain, Lomita, and Scrapberry—all run by people of color—as crucial and empowering members of the agricultural community in Portland.

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