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Coast Chronicles: Meanwhile, back at the ranch

By Cate Gable

Observer columnist

Published on November 1, 2017 3:24PM

Portland friend and business colleague Alana Kambury assisted Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes with the cranberry harvest at Starvation Alley.

CATE GABLE PHOTO

Portland friend and business colleague Alana Kambury assisted Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes with the cranberry harvest at Starvation Alley.


“Meanwhile, back at the ranch” is the phrase you hear after the movie has taken you to a remote location while the plot has been thickening back home. The only thing I found thickening after my road trip to the Midwest were the blackberries. Still, it was great to be sleeping in my own bed again.

And our weather! I arrived in an evening rainstorm but by the next morning, I woke into a string of these golden fall days we’ve been blessed with. What an amazing autumn we’re having. Is it just me or does it look to anyone else like the trees are an especially brilliant neon orange this year? The cottonwoods, vine maples, tamarack, sumac — all are resplendent in fiery colors.


Starvation Alley


But back to the topic at hand — it’s cranberry harvest time. And my favorite cranberry farmers, Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes, have been hard at it organizing harvest teams on their Starvation Alley properties.

Almost ten years ago they decided to try their hand at raising organic cranberries, something that had never been done on the Peninsula, or perhaps anywhere. As Jessika says, “This will be our seventh harvest and as always we’re filled with excitement, anxiety, pride, and uncertainty. Organic cranberries were a risk we were willing to take even when most people said ‘no way.’ People thought it couldn’t be done. I called Rutgers University for advice, and they laughed at me. The culture around the crop was set in stone.”

“While we probably could have done things differently,” she continues, “at least we can say we did it our way — luckily with some incredible friends to support us.” Last Sunday was their Big Bog party where they hosted 60 people for dinner: friends and family who arrived to help with the harvest over the course of last week.

As a recent article about Jessika and Jared in the Modern Farmer indicates, “less than one percent of cranberries grown in the United States are organic certified.” But not only have they created an agricultural method that is friendlier to the earth, they’ve opened new and more profitable markets for our little red berries.

Last year’s harvest at Starvation Alley farms was 80,000 pounds of fruit, a third less than the bogs had yielded using conventional methods. However, instead of earning 45 cents per pound from Ocean Spray, Starvation Alley’s organic cranberries earn the equivalent of $8 per pound in upscale markets where the product is cold-pressed and used for drinks and sauces. They sell online, at local farmers markets, and at 29 grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest.

“I don’t hear as much laughing,” Jessika says. “We’ve totally shifted the paradigm.”

Driving out of town you may have noticed the harvesters working the bog just past the corner of Sandridge and Highway 101. Friends arrive from points north and south, as well as college buds from their cohort at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (now Presidio Graduate School (tinyurl.com/y7kzmmh5). BGI, as it was called then, was founded by Libba Pinchot and Gifford Pinchot III in 2002. Together with their friends Sherman Severin and Jill Bamburg, they created the first business school with an environmental and sustainability mission — “Change Business for Good.”

Jill and I taught the capstone course in the MBA program, and I fondly remember Jessika. So imagine my surprise when she and Jared turned up as Peninsula neighbors ready to walk the talk. It’s amazing as a professor to see how one’s lessons can actually be put to use. Jared and Jessika added passion to their learning and broke new ground in with cranberries.

I pulled over when I saw their harvest operation and simply stood and watched for awhile by the side of the road. Seeing the results of education, inspiration, innovation thinking, and just plain hard work coming to fruition was a treat.


The DoGoodnics


Part of the fun of coming home after a trip is realizing what an amazing place we live in. There are passionate and creative people doing good all over the neighborhood. With a lot of help from their friends, Robert and Gwen Brake pulled off a tremendously successful “Celebration of Hispanic Culture” and fundraiser October 21 at the Chautauqua Lodge.

Nearly 60 people showed up to support the effort and, though their goal was an optimistic $2,000, as Robert said, “DoGoodnics raised $6000 at our celebration and fundraiser last Friday night. I’ve personally delivered three thousand dollars to three Hispanic families, with more to be delivered. One donation of $1,000 allowed a woman and her family to cover two month’s rent. Others are using funds for bills, clothing, and transportation.” (See Robert’s Thank you letter in this issue of the Chinook Observer for the long list of businesses that donated for the event and locals that helped to make this community project so successful.)

As long as ICE continues to target our Peninsula communities, Hispanic families will need support. If you’re interested in helping, you can still submit a check to “DoGoodnics” and mail it to 1605 229th Place, Ocean Park, WA 98640; or attend the next ACLU meeting to get the details: contact Ann Reeves — annreeves721@gmail.comfor meetings times and other information.


Culture across the river


In these cooling months when it’s easiest to just stay home by the fire, don’t forget the wonderful cultural offerings taking place across the river. Jennifer Crockett, Executive Director of the Liberty Theatre, is doing a tremendous job digging up and booking topnotch shows at the theatre.

Just as an example, those of us lucky enough to have made the trip to see the

a cappella group Women of the World in March will know why they’ve been nominated in three Grammy categories: best pop vocal album; best engineered album; and best arrangement for Cancion Del Pajaro. These four song birds from Japan, Italy, India, and the United States/Haiti thrilled us on the Liberty Stage with their rendition of Cancion Del Pajaro.

It’s this level of quality talent and showmanship that Jennifer and Bereniece Jones-Centeno are bringing to Liberty Theatre programming. So, without reservation, I can recommend the Nov. 10 performance of the Shook Twins, an Indi-folk-pop band born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho, now hailing from Portland, Oregon.

Katelyn and Laurie, identical twins, are the main songwriters, but part of the uniqueness of their sound is the band’s range of instrumentation: banjo, acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, mandolin, electronic drums, face drum (beat-box), glockenspiel, ukulele, banjo-head drumming and their signature Golden Egg — provided by band members Niko Slice, Barra Brown and Josh Simon. Genetic harmony will also be on display. Tickets are, as always, a bargain for live music at $15 for general admission. And don’t forget that the Liberty Theatre itself is a verified world-class venue. (For the complete calendar of events: libertyastoria.org.)

Yes, road trips are exciting — we all know snowbirds who are packing for their annual trip south — but for those of us who are staying home by the fire in our slippers, don’t pass up a good benefit, a live concert, a poetry reading, or soup night with friends. “Back at the ranch” is a sweet place to be in the winter.



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