With our October issue, we celebrate food . . . food for comfort, food for healing, food for nutrition, food as a necessity for life. A favorite author of mine once got me thinking about exactly where our food comes from, how far it travels, how fresh it is . . . and what it would mean if we all ate locally, seasonally and got our food directly from our own community. Food can taste better simply because it is local and fresh. If you have ever thought of connecting with local farmers, ranchers and food producers who utilize locally grown ingredients, one local non-profit is working to make that connection a bit easier.
Bend Lifestyle had the privilege of speaking with Sharon Maier-Kennelly, the new Executive Director of High Desert Food and Farm Alliance (HDFFA), a local non-profit that was founded on the belief that “everyone deserves good food,” which is defined as “affordable, nutritious and culturally preferred food that is easily accessible and sustainably produced in Central Oregon.” Passionate about their mission, HDFFA staff works year round through a variety of projects and programs to connect consumers with local food . . . with the belief that “our food connects us to each other.”
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Subscriptions
One obvious way to connect with local food is by visiting local farmer’s markets each summer. Once the summer season ends, it may seem as if finding locally raised fresh food is more difficult. However, there is one direct way for consumers to connect with local farms and have access to local food through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions. Consumers can purchase a “share” in a farm or ranch and receive a seasonal box of vegetables, fruit and often other items raised locally like eggs, milk, honey, grain and meat. Although most CSA subscriptions run from May/June through Aug/Sept, one Central Oregon farm, Rainshadow Organics, now offers a year-round “full diet” CSA. From their farm, to your table.
Get a Taste Directory and Mobile App
One annual project of HDFFA is their Get a Taste Food & Farm Directory. Available in print and online each year, this guide aims to make local food more accessible by providing consumers with listings for local farms and ranches, along with restaurants and beverage companies who utilize local ingredients to produce locally crafted food and products. Print versions can be found in several locations, and at the HDFFA booth at the Bend and NW Crossing Farmer’s Markets during the summer season. The “Get a Taste” app for mobile devices is also available.
Special Events and Partnerships
HDFFA encourages consumers to support local producers by purchasing food items from Central Oregon farms and ranches. According to Maier-Kennelly, a fun (and delicious!) event hosted by HDFFA is their Farm-to-Table events which are geared toward highlighting locally grown and produced foods. Their most recent event was a sold-out Farm-to-Table event at Hablo Tacos in Bend. Upcoming Farm-to-Table events will be held at various locations in Central Oregon, all with one-night-only special menus featuring wonderful courses that showcase tasty items grown or produced in our region.
Throughout the summer harvest season, HDFFA has a regular presence at Bend’s downtown and NW Crossing Farmer’s Markets. Here they host a booth offering education to consumers and support for local farmers, ranchers, producers and makers. During these markets, you might find HDFFA staff offering samples, highlighting the produce available locally. When farmer’s markets end, find local produce, meats, eggs and more local goods for sale at HDFFA partner grocers and stores such as Central Oregon Locavore and Agricultural Connections in Bend and Schoolhouse Produce in Redmond.
Education, Outreach and Connection
Since its early beginnings in 2010, HDFFA has grown from one staff member in 2017 to nine in 2023. According to the organization’s founder, Katrina Van Dis, who recently ended her tenure as Executive Director, “As a co-founder and Executive Director, I have spent 13 years dedicating myself to improving our Central Oregon food system. I am proud that HDFFA went from a community-driven concept to a flourishing organization benefiting tens of thousands of people and supporting 60+ local family farmers and ranchers.”
Continuing to be dedicated and passionate about their vision, HDFFA Agricultural Support Manager Andrea Smith notes, “HDFFA recognizes that not all Central Oregonians have the same access to good food, and is committed to improving equitable access. HDFFA collaborates with over 75 organizations across the region to implement its programs.”
The vision and mission of HDFFA is held up by their “boots on the ground” work year round in Central Oregon, serving the tri-county region of Central Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Their vision – “a prosperous food and farm network with equitable access for all Central Oregonians. This means that farmers and ranchers are paid fair market value for their goods, that residents have access to food that nourishes them and their families, and that our local economy is vibrant and supports equitable food access for all Central Oregonians.”
Food connects us. It is often the foundation for building communities. To find out more about local food and products, and even how to volunteer or support HDFFA, find them online.
HDFFA Programs and Projects
Food Access Programs
Dedicated to improving local food systems and getting fresh foods into the hands of those with limited income, HDFFA facilitates a number of programs, including “Grow & Give”, “FEAST” and “VeggieRx.” During 2023, HDFFA programs have collected and donated over 30,000 pounds of produce for Central Oregon food banks, with many pounds of produce collected and donated after local farmer’s markets in the summer.
Local Food Subscription Boxes
The High Desert Food & Farm Store offers Local Food Boxes delivered to your (or a friend’s) door every three months with a sampling of the best from local food artisans (and HDFFA partners) who utilize locally sourced ingredients in their non-perishable products. Proceeds from the sales benefit food access and farm support programs.
High Desert Food Trail
A program under the Travel Oregon Food Trails, these self-guided adventures through Central Oregon offer something for everyone, with opportunities to experience culinary and agritourism opportunities with 45 unique businesses including farms, ranches, restaurants, craft and beverage makers, and more. From stunning landscapes to artisan offerings to resilient agriculture, there’s so much to do along these journeys through our region.
HDFFA Partners in Central Oregon
52 Farm & Ranch Partners • 23 Vegetables/Fruit Partners • 22 Meat/Poultry Partners • 20 Dairy/Egg Partners • 17 Locally Made Partners • 15 Eat Partners • 15 Flower/Nursery Partners • 12 Market & Grocer Partners • 11 Seeds/Plants/Landscapes Partners • 7 Herbs/Grains Partners
“Whether we are buying produce, choosing a restaurant, or a locally crafted beverage, the choices we make day to day impact our community. We can choose to keep our money in our community . . . we can all make an impact and choose to support our local producers, farmers and their families.”
—Sharon Maier-Kennelly, HDFFA Executive Director