The Local Hero Awards celebrate outstanding contributions to our regional food community. Following an open call for nominations, we selected our top four nominees in six categories, and invited the public to vote during the month of February. Voting closed on March 1. Thank you to all 2,317 people who cast their votes.
What began as a small garden in 2002 has flourished into a two-acre farm operation with Wallowa County’s first Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and a catering company highlighting Backyard Gardens’ own produce. Farmer Beth Gibans is also responsible for founding the first Wallowa County farmers’ market and helping form the boards of Slow Food Wallowas and the Wallowa County Food System Council. Gibans is committed to creative, high-quality food and environmentally friendly farming and business practices.
Dancing Roots Farm
Shari Sirkin and Bryan Dickerson grow prized heirloom vegetables on their ten-acre organic farm in Troutdale for Portland restaurants and 150 CSA members’ boxes each week during the growing season. They also serve as a dedicated voice and council for small family farmers. Sirkin leads the charge as president of Portland Area Community-Supported Agriculture Coalition (PACSAC), speaking beside U.S. Senators and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, among many others, to advocate for policies that support strong connections between local farmers and eaters. Sirkin and Dickerson have also built relationships with local schools and learning centers in order to bring farm-fresh food to those without reliable access.
Gee Creek Farm
Lyle Stanley and his farm team take sustainable practices to heart – including the use of drip irrigation and bio-diesel vehicles – on their organic produce and grain farm in Ridgefield, Washington. Gee Creek is one of the few farmers’ market vendors with a full array of locally grown and processed whole grains, beans and baking mixes. Portland’s Fressen Artisan Bakery utilizes Gee Creek wheat, ground by the farm’s gristmill, to make traditional German wholegrain breads. Additionally, Gee Creek Farm offers both Herd and Flockshare programs, giving members a reliable, humane and cost-effective source for farm-fresh eggs and dairy products.
Stahlbush Island Farms
Ever since Bill and Karla Chambers began farming in the Willamette Valley in 1985, they have been forerunners in sustainable farming. In 2009, Stahlbush Island Farms built the first biogas plant of its kind in North America and has since become a carbon negative operation. Besides selling fresh produce, the farm freezes their own fruits, vegetables and grains, allowing eaters to enjoy Oregon-grown foods year-round. Among other accolades, Stahlbush Island Farms was named Sustainable Plant of the Year by Food Engineering Magazine in November 2012, and Business of the Year by the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce this January for donating over one million servings to local food banks every year.
Grain & Gristle
Owner Ben Meyer is known among eaters for his dedication to searching out high-quality local ingredients for Grain & Gristle, and for pouring heady local microbrews for thirsty diners. Meyer forms lasting relationships with the farmers and ranchers that supply the restaurant, including one in an urban lot nearby, and actively cultivates an artisan community in northeast Portland by teaching butchery classes with the Portland Meat Collective. He is committed to his employees, offering benefits including paid sick days.
Grand Central Bakery
With several locations in both Seattle and Portland and a humming wholesale business, Grand Central Bakery supports many regional producers and brings affordable, exceptional artisan breads, pastries, breakfast and lunch fare to eaters. One hundred percent of their flour is grown in the Northwest, and they work directly with farms to source ingredients for their scratch-made breakfasts and lunches. Grand Central Bakery donates all edible leftovers to those in need, and contributes to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Friends of Family Farmers, Human Solutions and the Multnomah County Library Foundation.
At this fine-dining restaurant, Chef Aaron Woo has finessed the art of making vegetable, fruit and grain-based meals. His one-of-a-kind plates made with local, seasonal ingredients raise the bar for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free with his celebration and elevation of the mighty vegetable. Chef Woo has also built relationships with numerous foragers, and most plates aren’t complete without the best of the Northwest’s wild greens, mushrooms and berries. Many Portland-based publications, as well as Sunset Magazine in January 2013 have lauded his ingenuity.
Cathy Whims, the artisan behind Nostrana and Oven and Shaker, brings a rustic Italian dining experience to Portland’s dinner crowd. She has been a leading light in Portland’s culinary community for decades, showing unceasing dedication to seasonality, her personal relationships with Northwest farmers, and the authentic, pure and simple flavors of Italy. Whims has been honored with many awards for her cooking expertise, and was a finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef: NW 2009 through 2012.
Bee Local Honey
The longevity of the honeybee is a critical issue for the health of agriculture, and Damian Magista of Bee Local Honey is a strong advocate for our native pollinators. Magista provides Portland with honey from four micro-apiaries in Eastside neighborhoods, while spreading the word on the importance of honeybees in the food cycle to children and adults, world renown chefs, local brewers, and ice creameries. Magista’s approach to honey has been referred to as an “urban agriculture renaissance,” as the flavors of the honey produced reflect the neighborhood in which the bees forage for nectar. Bee Local Honey is available at Pastaworks and The Woodsman Market in Portland.
The Better Bean Company
Father and daughter Keith and Hannah Kullberg are committed to the quality of their organic, vegan, refrigerated beans, and the sustainability of the container the beans come in. The BPA-free and fully recyclable packaging represents a 30-percent reduction in carbon footprint and features Non-GMO Project Verification on the label. The Kullbergs are raising standards and expectations for the staple food we purchase and consume. The company, which began as a farmers’ market booth, has now secured shelf space across North America. While most beans found in a supermarket today are sourced globally, the Kullbergs assure you that, although the recipes are inspired by worldwide flavors, their beans are grown right here in the Northwest.
Century Oak Packing
Mike Kloft and his wife are leaders in meat processing. In an era when everyone was leaving the industry, they built their own facility in Mt. Angel, Oregon, processing meat on-site, and developing recipes and labels specific to their clients’ needs. By taking custom cutting and wrapping orders, Century Oak reduces waste and produces high-quality USDA-inspected meat to restaurants, buying clubs, nonprofits, and individuals throughout Oregon. Their role is critical to the livelihood of many small-scale sustainable meat producers.
Featuring classic and unconventional flavors, Unbound Pickling is the quintessential family-run operation. Each jar of pickles is hand packed with delicious local fruits, vegetables and herbs. Adventurous connoisseurs can try bacon pickles flavored with natural hickory smoke, or opt for a sweeter alternative of pickled cherries soaked in a vanilla and tarragon brine. For the love of a good pickle, they connect directly with farmers and use only the freshest and highest quality ingredients.
Fort George Brewery
Their beers can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest, but with roots planted in Astoria, Fort George goes beyond brewing great drinks. They are huge advocates of keeping their ingredients and products local, and they dedicate themselves to bringing the community together. “Co-Hoperative Ale,” a seasonal brew, is made of fresh hops that community members grow. The recent addition of a garden to their Astoria location is exemplary of Fort George’s passion to give strength to their community as well as their brews.
Lion Heart Kombucha
This family-owned artisan kombucha microbrewery buys its fruit from Columbia Gorge Organics and highlights seasonal Pacific Northwest flavors. Jared Englund, the brewmaster, generously shares his knowledge with the community by teaching people how to brew their own kombucha at home, making this sought-after drink more affordable. In addition to their brewery on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue, Lion Heart Kombucha (and glass jar refill stations) can be found at various markets and co-ops throughout Portland.
Noble Coffee Roasting
Jared Rennie, the founder of Noble Coffee, began roasting coffee twenty years ago. His ongoing love of the complexity of the bean continues to fuel his passion. Noble sources its coffee beans from organic farms and cooperatives. In close partnership with producers, Noble Coffee operates fundraisers for organic certification and to supply everything from printers to school supplies to best support coffee producers within their own communities. The Noble crew can be found roasting and brewing the perfect cuppa at their Ashland coffeehouse, or serving coffee at the Ashland Growers Market.
Steven Smith Teamaker
The teamakers of Steven Smith Tea are veritable experts on all things tea. Founder Steve Smith, who started with Stash and Tazo brand teas, spearheaded the CHAI Project – Cultivating Hope for Advancement in India – a three-year community development initiative for the tea growing communities of Darjeeling and Assam, India. Today, Smith and his team craft small-batch artisan teas here in Portland. A long-standing relationship with specialist spearmint growers Mills Mint Farm in Stanfield, Oregon has lent itself to the signature flavor of Smith’s Fez Tea.
Friends of Family Farmers
Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) unites the voices of small-scale family farmers in Oregon and advocates for socially responsible agriculture. Through listening sessions, FoFF engages newcomers and longtime farmers alike to learn what issues are important to them. They bring these concerns, ranging from local food security and food justice to community economic development, to Salem. At monthly “InFARMation and beer” sessions, FoFF brings urban folks together with farmers to learn about their challenges and build a more knowledgeable, compassionate, and engaged food community.
Oregon City Farmers Market – P.O.P. Club
With the desire to connect children to the importance of the food they eat, Oregon City Farmers’ Market Manager Jackie Hammond-Williams created the Power of Produce Club. Kids ages 5-12 get a “Passport to Health,” in which they can get stamps and tokens to purchase produce and participate in activities that show how farmers grow produce and grains. A popular activity is a stationary bike rigged to a grain mill. Kids pedal to grind wheat berries into flour, which a volunteer mixes into pancake batter to grill and top with market-fresh accoutrements. Hammond-Williams’ creative hands-on program has been duplicated around the country, engaging kids with the wonders of good food.
OSU Extension Service Nutrition Education Program – Food Hero!
This online resource shares healthy eating and nutrition-related information with low-income Oregonians and busy parents everywhere in a format that is easy to understand and access. The team behind FoodHero.org has gone above and beyond to become the go-to site for budgeting, planning and cooking wholesome meals. FoodHero.org even features a multilingual online publication Food Hero Monthly, which offers recipes for nutritious meals and tips for better eating habits every month of the year.
Upstream Public Health
Since 2006, Upstream has been a leading advocate for Farm to School and School Garden programs. Their policy advocacy in 2011 helped create a $200,000 pilot grant program, unveiled this January, to aid eleven diverse Oregon school districts in serving food produced or processed in Oregon and integrating food, garden, and agricultural education into their curricula. This year, Upstream and collaborators are returning with a similar bill to increase funding statewide so that local food reaches many thousands more students and boosts the local agricultural economy. This organization has become an asset to Oregon’s economic, educational and public health future.
Going back all the way to 1938, organic agriculture specialist Concentrates NW takes on the all-important role in our regional food system of supplying farmers, homeowners and businesses with the tools they need to grow crops and raise livestock. While specializing in meals and organic fertilizers made of blends of natural materials, they also offer free beginning gardening classes and give presentations to schools and organizations on the fundamentals of organic and sustainable agriculture. General manager Heather Havens, who was involved in the creation of the OSU Master Gardener Program, brings her deep gardening knowledge to many classes.
Flying Fish Company
The Gildersleeve family brings fresh and flash frozen sustainable seafood to Portland from “the Shack” on Southeast Hawthorne. Sustainable fish from a shack? Flying Fish doesn’t need a big space to fulfill its commitment to selling responsibly harvested seafood, including Oregon Dungeness crab and Oregon albacore tuna. By following a sustainable fishing guide and establishing direct relationships with suppliers, the Gildersleeves ensure the integrity of their sources.
Food Front Co-op
With locations in northwest and southwest Portland, Food Front is Portland’s longest standing community-owned grocery store. Founded in 1972, Food Front now has over 10,000 owner-members. The co-op sustains a healthy and vibrant community by seeking out local suppliers and producers of wholesome foods, seasonal produce, local beer and wine, and fair-trade items. The co-op often provides the first venue for artisan producers to bring their products to market. Every month, Food Front features a community fundraiser, and members have opportunities throughout the year to go on field trips to farms, ranches, and more.
The Warehouse Cafe & Market
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the 1,000-member-strong Know Thy Food buying club and the popular family gathering place Warehouse Cafe have become a community-owned cooperative grocery store on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue. The Warehouse Café & Market is a neighborhood gathering place for purchasers of meat, dairy, produce, beverages and health products to connect in person with the farmers and artisans who supply these goods year-round.