Quarry fight picks up again

Meet this week’s vegetables:

(Rusty can’t resist the veggies!)

  • Dino kale rapini — Dinosaur kale rapini might just be our favorite of all the rapinis, especially for eating raw. But, then again, we couldn’t give up any of the others either!
  • Collard greens — Beautiful, sweet leaves from over-wintered collard greens. Cook as you would kale but for a longer time.
  • Asian green / turnip rapini — Casey made a great rapini salad this weekend, featuring turnip and other rapinis, chopped raw and tossed with a creamy Caesar-like dressing (anchovies and all). To die for!
  • Green savoy cabbage — Cabbages are still going strong! Another yummy quick meal from our week: Sauté chopped rapini and cabbage with leeks until very tender. Stir in a can of good quality tuna and cook a few more minutes (stirring regularly) until flavors are melded. Serve over quinoa and garnish liberally with crumbled goat cheese and sauerkraut! If you can’t tell, many of our meals are often made up on the spot, based on what we have on hand (usually a few veggies, some kind of protein, and a grain).
  • Parsnips — Rusty loves eating parsnips raw in the field, and I’ve heard other people report that their kids loves parsnip “sticks” just as much as carrot sticks. New food trend anyone?
  • Sweet potatoes OR Yellow Finn potatoes — Your choice between sweet sweet potatoes or sweet Yellow Finn potatoes. Both are tasty and versatile!
  • Leeks
  • Garlic

Every few weeks a friend or CSA member checks in with us about the status of the Protect Grand Island quarry fight. For many months, we didn’t have much to share. There was a lull after the final hearing last year, followed by the ridiculous series of rebuttal, rebuttal to the rebuttal, and rebuttal to the rebuttal to the rebuttal (I’m not making that up).

Finally, last week the Yamhill County Commissioners met to discuss and vote on the quarry application …

(For those of you who aren’t up to speed — a rock company applied last year to convert 224 acres of prime irrigated Grand Island farmland to mineral extraction zoning so that it could become a giant quarry. Since we live and farm on the island, we are acutely aware of how amazing this place is for agriculture. We are also very aware of how sensitive of a place it is to intrusions — in terms of floodwater movement, effects on other farms, etc. Gravel quarries also permanently destroy farmland that could produce jobs and food for endless generations to come — an unfortunate trade of long-term benefits for short-term profits. Consequently, we spent much of last year working to fight the quarry application).

Anyhow, not surprisingly given how much oppositional testimony was offered over the last year, the Commissioners didn’t simply vote to approve or not. Instead, they added complexity to the approval process by “bifurcating” it — in other words, they split the approval process into two steps. On Thursday, they voted 2 to 1 in favor of the first question, whether the site meets the legal requirements for being a “significant aggregate resource.”

This probably requires further explanation. Oregon requires that when agricultural land is converted to mineral extraction, applicants first demonstrate that the site offers a “significant aggregate resource” by having a 25-foot layer of gravel. In other words, a site that only contained a five-foot layer would be deemed more useful as agricultural ground than extraction.

Our opposition group, organized into the non-profit Protect Grand Island Farms, strongly contested that the rock company did not meet this basic legal requirement, because the 25-feet of gravel on the site is found in two layers (neither 25-feet on their own), separated by an extremely large intervening layer of clay. In order to find the “significant resource” volume, the test bore holes had to go quite deep — in spots 60 feet below grade!

One of our expert witnesses, geologist Dr. Mark Reed, suggested that by this loose definition of a 25-foot layer, almost any site in Oregon could be deemed a “significant resource” through enough digging and adding of layers!

So, can multiple layers count as a “significant resource”? In their presentation of this first-part of the approval process, the Commissioners (along with Planning Department Head Mike Brandt) made it clear that this is really a question for the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

Perhaps all this “layer” stuff seems nit-picky, but clearly Yamhill County found our oppositional testimony on this point compelling enough to pay it special attention. Plus, the requirement exists for a good reason: to prevent more land going out of farming than necessary.

Because the Commissioners voted 2 to 1 in favor of accepting the application’s assessment in this case, our non-profit, Protect Grand Island Farms, now has the task and burden of appealing the decision to LUBA — a very expensive process!

There is no question we will continue with this process, but at the moment our group does not have the funds to go all the way through LUBA. We estimate that we’ll need up to $10,000 in the next few weeks to cover our legal fees and the mandatory mailing that has to be sent out to everyone who submitted testimony to the county (including those hundreds of postcards!). Yikes!

Last year, we financed most of our legal fees and other costs personally from within our group. I think many of our board members and key players are feeling stretched thin as we go into another season of fighting. I know that we have no extra money to spend on anything this year since we are in the process of buying land!

To that end, if there is anyone in our CSA or beyond who cares about this issue and would like to contribute financially, now is the time to give. All donations are tax deductible and will be recognized with a receipt for your records. You can send checks made out to “Protect Grand Island Farms” to P.O. Box 1803, McMinnville, OR 97128.

To help put our fight within a large context, our case is one of the stronger more visible quarry fights going on in the state right now. We’re also one of the closest to the capital. People who have been fighting to keep quarries off of farmland for decades are watching us closely and excited about the progress we’ve made so far with our case. Our hope is that by winning at LUBA, we will set precedent that helps support our existing land-use laws when it comes to the important continued work of farmland preservation (that awesome legacy of Governor Tom McCall).

Also, please remember that this issue does affect us personally and consequently all our eaters as well. Our farm is located immediately downstream and down truck route from the proposed quarry site. Any disruption in floodwaters or effects from truck traffic would impact our farm. As we continue with our land purchase, it is nerve-wracking to think that our hard work and investment could be hurt in the future by this quarry.

You can find out more information about the quarry, our fight so far, and the long list of concerns on our group’s website: www.ProtectGrandIsland.com.

I know that finances are tight for many of us these days, so thank you in advance to those of you who can stretch and give some to this cause so close to our home and hearts. I know personally that it can be challenging to choose the most effective ways to donate money, and I do believe that our group has a real chance at making a difference locally and on the state level with our efforts. Any amount makes a difference: $20, $50, $100, $500 … !

Ok, before I start sounding too much like a public broadcasting pledge drive, I’ll sign off for this week. It’s good for us at the farm to remember the goal of all of this work: to preserve the awesomeness that is our Oregon farmland — so productive in so many seasons! Even though it is still cold and wet out, we have greens, greens, and more greens this week, just in time to celebrate the spring equinox!

Happy spring, and enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Quarterly payments are due by April 1!

Make checks out to “Oakhill Organics.” You can bring checks to pick-up or mail your payments to us: P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville, OR 97128.

  • Large share quarterly payment = $243
  • Medium share quarterly payment = $157
  • Double medium share quarterly payment = $304
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