PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Monday morning, Multnomah County launched a new Community Reaps Our Produce and Shares farm program in Troutdale. The farm will be managed by the Black-owned farming business Mudbone Grown.

CROPS is a farming initiative that was created by Multnomah County and led by Jerry Hunter in 2009.

“Over the next 11 years, Jerry put his skills as a farmer, coach and mentor to work, creating a fun, inclusive and healing environment for growing food and community, and inspiring people to learn along the way,” Commissioner Lori Stegmann said at the farm incubator’s groundbreaking.

After over a decade of Hunter’s management, the farm is getting a revamp to promote culturally-specific farming.

The USDA reported that only 3 farmers throughout Multnomah County are Black; The Feed ‘Em Freedom Foundation reported that 18% of Black families experience high food insecurity — a percentage three times higher than that for non-Hispanic white, families. 

The CROPS project intends to change these statistics, making farming opportunities and nutritious foods more accessible to BIPOC communities.

“Farming is a practice that is often handed down generation to generation,” county chair Deborah Kafoury said. “So if you weren’t allowed to own your own business or you weren’t allowed to own the land, then you weren’t able to get into the farming world and so that’s one of the reasons why we have so few Black farmers in Multnomah County. We’re trying to turn that around.”

Oregon has a history of excluding ethnic people. In 1850, the Oregon Donation Land Law was passed. This law explicitly stated that white male citizens were entitled to 320 acres, and their wives were eligible for 320 acres.

The new project that was designed to counter that exclusion will be managed by Shantae Johnson and Arthur Shavers of Mudbone Grown. According to a release, the Board of Commissioners allocated $500,000 for the project.

“They’re going to train and uplift the next generation of Black and African immigrant farmers,” Kafoury said. “They’re going to teach the community the importance of having fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables. Also, the black farmers who will be working on-site will be able to have economic development opportunities as well.”

Mudbone Grown, which started in 2016, was chosen to run the facility after a competitive Request for Proposal process through the Multnomah County Health Department, which owns land across the county. In the application, Mudbone Grown talked about their farming practices, community benefits and plans for the three-acre property.

The new CROPS farm at 1700 W Historic Columbia River Hwy in Troutdale will have community workshops, a community orchard where people will learn how to manage fruit trees and share the harvest and more.

“We’re looking at also donating to some local food pantries such as Oregon Food Bank, our Feed-em Freedom Foundation nonprofit that has multiple food banks out in East County, and just doing more community engagement and education so that people can learn how to grow for themselves and create food sovereignty for all,” Johnson said.

The main phase of construction is expected to be completed by mid-2023.