In Portland, Ecotrust Builds a Hub for Sustainable Food

Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust
Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust

“Our agricultural system is broken,” said Nathan Kadish, managing director of Ecotrust Capital Partners, at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas. Industrial farms today emit huge quantities of methane and carbon, use vast amounts of water, and are major sources of chemical runoff. To help fix the system, local producers who are committed to sustainable practices need to be given the opportunity to scale up and sell to the institutional food buyers that have multi-billion dollar annual budgets. Ecotrust, a well-known environmental non-profit based in Portland, aims to help those farmers with their ambitious Redd on Salmon Street project, expected to open in Portland in 2016. The project, which won SXSW’s Place by Design resilience competition, is being designed and built by OPSIS, Green Gables architecture, Base landscape architecture, and Walsh Construction Company.

As Ecotrust explains: “Portland is an international mecca for vibrant, seasonal food and artisan producers. But too often, developing food producers can’t move beyond niche products sold at high costs (to offset high distribution cost), afforded by only a small segment of the local community. The Redd will serve ‘ag in the middle,’ mid-size rural farmers, ranchers, and fishers who have outgrown direct-to-consumer channels, such as CSAs and farmers’ markets, and are looking to scale their business. The Redd will increase access to value-added producers, markets, and infrastructure (like warehousing, aggregation and distribution), a lack of which inhibits growth.”

The new Redd on Salmon Street will consist of a square-block 80,000-square-feet food production and distribution facility in the Central Eastside neighborhood of Portland. They are rehabilitating two buildings with the highest levels of sustainable design: the Marble, a former distribution hub, and the Foundry, an iron works plant from the early 20th century. During the design charrette, Kadish said, the EcoTrust team met with food buyers, farmers, ranchers, fisherman, and architects in order to design the space to offer lots of open space, but also a set of large and small agricultural facilities.

Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust Vimeo
Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust Vimeo

Some details from their website: “With over 20,000 square feet of warehouse space, the Marble building will serve as a cold storage, aggregation, packaging, and distribution center for the Redd, and also includes over 6,000 square feet of prime storefront and studio space for retail and ancillary businesses. Plans for the Foundry restoration include 16,000 square feet of food production space, including USDA-certified meat processing facilities and specially-equipped facilities for value-added grain production. In addition, eight smaller spaces are under design for small-scale on-site food production.”

Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust
Redd on Salmon Street / Ecotrust

As Kadish explained, Ecotrust wants to create a set of working spaces that can help create a “symbiotic ecosystem” with all the players involved, but with a focus on serving the needs of the institutional buyers, which serve hospitals and schools. “Redd will be demand-side driven, as opposed to a rural farm-side aggregator.” Already, the Northwest Food Buyers Alliance has been formed and gotten on board. Together, these food buyers provide 125,000 meals a day.

Kadish thinks the new agricultural campus will eventually employ 400 people, with 200 new jobs. The ripple effects in the broader agricultural economy could of course be much greater. And if Ecotrust succeeds, hopefully Redd will serve as a model to help other small-scale farmers move up the ladder.

A few other Place by Design competition finalists are worth noting: The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservancy and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is one of the greenest buildings in the world, and one of the few to achieve LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge, and SITES 4-star certifications. Landscape architecture firm Andropogon Associates along with other designers participated in a two-year integrated design process to achieve this high standard.

In Beirut, Lebanon, local architect Adib Dada and his team are banding together with non-profits to create a plan for restoring the degraded Beirut River. Dada plans to use “biomimicry at the systems scale” with a set of green and “blue” streets, sponge parks, and green roofs to restore the river ecosystem to health.

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