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Tryon Farm

TLC Farm is a seven-acre land project and non-profit event center, surrounded by the beautiful forest of Tryon Creek State Park. Houses on the land host independent residential collectives--Cedar Moon and the Sacred Lands Alliance that co-manage the TLC Farm.

Tryon Creek State Park is 650 acres of diverse forest with a creek running through it. It is Oregon's only state park located within a major metropolitan area and is frequented by Portland-area residents.

Mission: TLC Farm brings people together to root into relationships with each other and the land, by sharing tools for community-based sustainability and social change, and tending resilient ecosystems.

Social Dynamics:

Cedar Moon: There are 18 people living in this independent residential collective, including three children under the age of four. Residents volunteer ten hours a week with land and building projects, fundraising, education, organizing workshops and events, outreach, spiritual ecology, and caring for the goats and chickens. Six hours a week are spent in contribution to the community—cooking, cleaning, doing chores, and gardening.

Sacred Lands Alliance: There are about 5 adults and 1 teen member. This collective was created by and for people of color at TLC Farm. They are working with TLC Farm volunteers to make the land and programs more accessible for frontline communities who have been alienated from their lands.

Cedar Moon residents have an intense relationship with the outside public. One of the residents, Hindi, is the main teacher for a preschool, Willow Creek Forest School.

This outdoor, Montesorri-style preschool is for all children in and outside of the community that are 3-5 years old. The school runs for 9 months, Tuesday-Thursday from 9:30 am-1:30 pm, with an option to add aftercare each day until 3:00. You can visit for more information and to enroll. Many of the residents volunteer time at this school as a part of their 10 hr. required volunteer hours.

Along with the school, they hold public demonstrations and tours related to the sustainable practices they employ on the farm. The residents seem to truly enjoy engaging with the public. We noted how well the residents collaborated with one another and supported one another both on physical and emotional levels.

The main objective for the residents of the Sacred Land Alliance is to make the land and programs more accessible for frontline communities who have been alienated from their lands. They are actively teaching volunteers and residents how to be an anti-racist ally and teaching about Native American culture and history.

Infrastructure: The land they have open to the public as a sustainability demonstration is called The Village Green. This land has a large yurt, outdoor kitchen, tea house, bonfire area, earthen buildings, and stage

Working with volunteer professional architects, designers, and builders, TLC Farm pushes the envelope for regenerative design in Portland: built environments that are fully integrated into energy, water, food ("waste"), and habitat cycles with the rest of the local ecology. This includes a wide variety of demonstration natural building techniques (strawbale infill, cob, light straw/clay, earthen plaster, earthen paint, poured earth, earthbag, etc.). Saturday work parties frequently include a building element.

Houses on the land host independent residential collectives, Cedar Moon and the Sacred Lands Alliance.

Electricity: As we only visited for a day tour, we did not find any information about how this property is powered. We did see a few solar panels on individual houses but we imagine most of the property is still connected to the grid.

Water: They are still connected to city water but are committed to weaning themselves off of it. They are in the process of building structures for bioremediation for runoff, multiple rainwater cisterns, multiple irrigation/aquaculture ponds, greywater systems, keyline swales, and possibly a nanohydro generation system.

Waste Management: TLC has Portland's first public composting toilets. This is a big deal as this requires permitting and approval from the city.

Farming and Food Forests: TLC is primarily focused on food production using standard organic and permaculture techniques: sheet mulching for weed control, interplanting, insectivores, etc. They primarily plant annuals and small perennials. Farming is coordinated through the Garden working group, which has regular meetings.

They are in the preliminary stages of creating a Food Forest Research Center in collaboration with local permaculturists, educational institutions, and urban policy planners. The purpose will be to develop experimental trials of various micro-habitat configurations and assess human food productivity, native habitat suitability, and human habitat usability. The goal will be to identify combinations that can be used on both public and private land to create corridors of stacked habitat and function. They are also planning and implementing multi-story food forests both within existing native forest and orchard areas, and from scratch.

Animal Husbandry: TLC Farm currently manages a flock of chickens and herd of goats, and many mason bees. They eat the chickens as well as eat eggs. They use the goats for milking and for natural weeding and mowing. The mason bees provide honey for the community as well as pollinate their garden.

Children: In the forest school, children enjoy a consistent daily rhythm in which they can allow their imaginations to blossom and be immersed in the magic of the forest, while learning to be good stewards to the land and each other. The flow of the day includes: crafts, homesteading skills, plant medicine-making, snack time provided by the school (including bread baked in the cob oven!), circle time, plenty of time in the forest and special festival days – all guided by songs and stories inspired by the changing seasons on the land.

Development History: Most of the Tryon State Park area is a public resource, protected from development by community organizing over thirty years ago. Seven acres remained in private hands. This land has been tilled for one hundred years and contains two houses and one barn. It has been a functioning farm since the 1930s, when it was owned by the Schuster and Whiting families.

In 1977 the Whitings sold it to Gisele Fitch and Karl Marlantes, a couple who wanted to turn it into yoga retreat center. They converted the old farmhouse and garage into apartments intended for yoga devotees, but the idea fizzled, so they rented the apartments out to a series of Lewis and Clark College students, artists, organic farmers, and natural builders, while they lived in Seattle.

When the couple split and were no longer living on the land, there was talk of selling it. People residing on the land held the first recorded meeting on June 2, 2003 to stop the first interested developer, Weston Properties Investment, from purchasing the property. The ten residents created a Vision Group, Legal Group, Community Outreach Group, and Friends of Tryon Liaisons in an effort to purchase the land so it could be protected through a land trust. This means there can be no development and no risk or damage to the property.

Karl wanted to use the money from the sale of the land to pay for his children's college education, and developers were the only ones who offered to buy. Two developers had been interested but walked away from the property due to community resistance. Meanwhile, residents began to discuss the possibility of becoming a non-profit organization, and some residents began laying the groundwork for this idea. In April of 2004, the same month they incorporated as a non-profit through the Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust, Brownstone Homes bought an option agreement (the right to buy the property in one year).

With development seemingly certain, residents looked in earnest for ways to save the farm. The proposed development would endanger an extremely sensitive ecosystem, surrounded on three sides by Tryon Creek State Park. There have been ongoing efforts to restore salmon, which are now few and far between, to Tryon Creek. Development adds sedimentation to the creek, increasing turbidity and posing a threat to fish and insects.

By saving the farm, seven acres of land in the buffer zone of a watershed would be preserved. While Randy Meyers of Brownstone Homes pictured pavement and 23 mini mansions, residents had a different idea in mind and fought to instill their vision: “Tryon Life Community Farm provides educational opportunities to the Portland community while preserving common green space, restoring native ecosystems, and demonstrating sustainable urban density living.”

The Farm now hosts classes and workshops on topics that include organic agriculture, solar energy, biodiesel, medicinal plants, food preservation, drumming, and environmental philosophy.

Unique Features:

The Land now called Tryon Life Community Farm was the hunting grounds of the Tualatin Kalapuya and the Clackamas Chinook.

For thousands of years they thrived, until 200 years ago devastating diseases swept through their villages severely reducing the population. Before they had a chance to recover, waves of Euro-American colonization hit the land we now call Oregon. Years of struggle to retain tribal autonomy followed, as did many promises made and broken by the United States government. Mounting pressure for more land by white settlers led the federal government to extinguish all native claims to land in the Willamette and Tualatin valleys and forcibly remove the tribes to the Grande Ronde and other reservations in 1855.

The government then set about giving the land away to Euro-American settlers, including Hotchkiss Socrates Tryon who claimed the valley which is now his namesake park.

This information is key to understanding why those who visit, volunteer, come to classes, and enjoy events here, have been predominately white. And why this needs to change.

Over the past few years, TLC Farm has been actively reshaping itself to counter this legacy of colonialism. To do so, a new collective created by and for people of color has taken root on this land. The Sacred Lands Alliance is working with TLC Farm volunteers to make the land and programs more accessible for frontline communities who have been alienated from their lands.


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