The Ten Rivers Food Web mission first sprouted back in 1999. That year, Sharon Thornberry of Oregon Food Bank and Reverend John Pitney, founder of That’s My Farmer!, hosted “A Place at the Table” conversations to address increasing hunger throughout Oregon. These conversations got a number of residents in our communities thinking about our local foodshed, and the opportunities that lie within our rich and varied landscapes.
In the winter of 2004, Michael Papadopoulos hosted a series of open microphone “fish bowl” Town Hall meetings at the Odd Fellows Hall in Corvallis. These meetings focused on mounting hunger in and around Corvallis. A Food Security Workshop followed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and there was consideration of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to provide support to food insecure residents in our area. Later that year, Benton County initiated a Food Security Task Force—OSU professors Joan Gross and Nancy Rosenberger provided research assistance to the task force. In July 2004, the Community Food Security Advocates of Benton County emerged, including as participants:
- Dan Sundseth
- Mary Anne Nusrala
- Susan Carmichael
- Sharon Thornberry
- Laurie Heilman
- Harry MacCormack
- Tracy Noel
- Chris Peterson
In December, the Community Food Security Advocates organized a Food Summit at the First United Methodist Church. Over 100 community members discussed the quality of available food and brainstormed about how more healthful food could be produced and distributed locally.The Community Food Security Advocates changed their name to Community Food Systems Coalition of the Mid-Willamette Valley, and formed committees, including:
- Producers and Processors;
- Education and Assessment;
- Emergency Food and Emergency Access;
- Servers, Retail, and Marketing; and
In spring 2005, Harry MacCormack suggested changing the name of the Community Food Systems Coalition of the mid-Willamette Valley to Ten Rivers Food Web. That April, Ten Rivers Food Web was incorporated. Plans for a Benton County Community Food Assessment were made in partnership with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. In addition, committees worked on several projects that continue today, including Fill Your Pantry events, and the Chefs’ Show-off. Also in 2005, Tracy Noel, with support from the Benton County Health Department and Marys River Watershed Council, submitted a funding proposal to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to investigate the opportunity for certification of “watershed-safe” agriculture.
In 2006, OWEB awarded a grant to Marys River Watershed Council in partnership with the Community Food Systems Coalition of the Mid-Willamette Valley, the Corvallis Environmental Center, and Cascade Pacific RC&D for the “Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Food” project. This grant supported staff and costs of planning this project to understand the nexus between watershed and family farm issues and engage food agricultural producers with watershed council concerns.
Over the next five years, Ten Rivers Food Web continued to develop and expand its work. The organization received tax-exempt 501(c)3 status in 2007. A website and Local Food Directory were also launched with support from the Fred Meyer Foundation. Terry Rossiter, Tove Solutions, and Chris Peterson were instrumental in these marketing endeavors. In addition, a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant provided funds for early trials of local bean and grain crops and preliminary market exploration. The Southern Willamette Valley Bean & Grain Project, organized as a partnership between Ten Rivers Food Web, Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, and several local businesses, emerged from meetings with farmers and community organizers from Benton, Linn, and Lane counties. This group met for discussions concerning the transition from grass seed production to food production, and continues to meet annually. Ten Rivers Food Web received a number of grants and funding that supported its outreach, organizing, and research—funders included McKenzie River Gathering, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, The Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and Oregon Food Bank. Some of the projects funded by these grantors include Community Food Assessments; community organizing activities, including Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together (FEAST) events; strategic planning, and That’s My Farmer SNAP incentives. In addition, Ten Rivers Food Web hosted AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) members.
2011 was a big year for Ten Rivers Food Web—the organization was one of four groups selected by Meyer Memorial Trust to receive a $300,000 grant over three years. This grant allowed Ten Rivers to hire staff to serve as Community Food Organizers in all three of its counties, as well as an Executive Director to oversee operations and development. Funding from Meyer Memorial Trust has provided Ten Rivers Food Web with an incredible opportunity to grow and expand its programming throughout Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties. Ten Rivers Food Web also received a significant grant from USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program to fund work in Lincoln County.
From our founders to our newest staff and supporters, we are all excited to see what the future holds for food and agriculture in the Ten Rivers foodshed as we continue to nourish local food systems, agriculture, and communities.