IMAGE: Dennis Culver
The founders of an urban-farming technique called SPIN are unveiling a spinoff in Portland this weekend, tweaking their nano-scaled farms down even further so their practices can be borrowed by backyard gardeners.
SPIN, or Small Plot Intensive farming, aims to put underemployed yards and other plots of urban dirt to work growing astonishing quantities of fancy-pants greens, garlics and other gourmet grazing material. If you’re doing SPIN farming, you sell your products at farmers markets and restaurants; if you SPIN garden, you’re growing for family and friends.
Portlanders are pretty much down with livin’ la vida locavore already. But a Wall Street Journal article last month about SPIN farming quotes residents in Boulder, Colo., decrying the vulgar vegetable beds disturbing the sanctity of neighborhood front yards, that sacred ground of the lawn-and-SUV-entitlement set.
SPIN guide co-author Roxanne Christensen says SPIN’s greatest goal is to bust the mindset that says there are “places vegetables and fruit don’t belong.”
SPIN’s wee urban farms churn out grub at a breakneck pace. The veggies are selected, pushed, groomed, harvested—and almost instantly replanted—in relays. It’s the Olympic foot race of vegetable-development programs, with each raised bed passing the baton to the next crop like a championship 400-meter sprint team, year-round. The Philadelphia SPIN farm, using just a half-acre of land, grossed $68,000 last year and drew salad addicts to line up weekly for its unique mix of greens.
You grew a tomato and you think you know your veggies? The SPIN founders’ favorite crops include yellow purslane (a cousin of that “weed” you’ve been pulling) and orach (a cooking green).
And their tightly choreographed growing strategies bring some crops to table just three weeks after planting.
The upside for SPIN gardening seems almost limitless, in spite of the fact there is one place where vegetables will never belong. In full shade.
THE FIVE RULES OF SPIN
1. Do not foul the earth by succumbing to the easy lassitudes of chemicals. Organic provides the path to health.
2. Municipal water is a great blessing in its reliability and purity. Traditional farmers, outside city boundaries, have major water issues you are spared.
3. Thou shalt not make thy raised beds wider than 2 feet, for that is the most natural dimension for man to straddle and reach. And you will be doing a lot of that.
4. Thou shalt till (as in roto-) and chill, preferably using a commercial cooler to preserve the abundant products of thy labor.
5. Honor thy father and mother with sit-down tasks, such as weeding on a chair centered over your raised beds. (Seriously, SPIN recommends that seniors take on garden work, too.)
THURSDAY MAY 8
[FUN ’N’ GAMES] COOL NUTZ’S CONNECT FOUR TOURNAMENT
There’s really only one family game hard enough for the rap game: Connect Four, bitch! Tonight the stars of the industry come out and play, including WW music writer Casey Jarman. Berbati’s Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 9 pm. Free. 21+.
SATURDAY MAY 10
[FEST] ST. JOHNS PARADE
Parade season kicks off with the freakiest of ’em all, NoPo’s St. Johns Parade, which includes real clowns, political clowns and a few clowns who spend too much time on North Lombard. Plus, the St. Johns Bizarre street fair keeps it weird with pro wrestlers and a “wet beer belly” contest (10 am-5 pm). Along North Lombard Street between Buchanan and New York Street, noon-2 pm. Free. Visit portlandsentinel.com/stjohnsparade for details.
Beaverton isn’t the first place you’d look for krumping, but you’ll find it when the new performance company Movèo makes its public debut. The Kingstad Center, 15450 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton, 641-5678. 7 pm. $10-$12.
SUNDAY MAY 11
[MOTHER’S DAY] HIP MAMA MAGAZINE PARTY
Say “thanks mom” with a puppet show, drinks, hula hooping, a fundraiser and Hip Mama readings. And that auction? It includes an “anatomically correct uncircumcised boy baby doll from Spain.” The Watershed Collective, 5040 SE Milwaukie Ave., 232-7433. 5 pm. $5 suggested donation.
[CLASSICAL] MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN
One of the more adventurous classical pianists of his generation plays a solo program that includes his own pieces, Weissenberg’s “Sonata in a State of Jazz” and more. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 228-1388. 4 pm Sunday, May 11 and 7:30 pm Monday, May 12. $24-$40.
MONDAY MAY 12
On his latest album, Atmosphere’s Slug paints portraits of working-class folks at the bottom of the food chain and women who just can’t get the respect they deserve. We finally understand why women love this guy. Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. 8 pm. $20 advance, $23 day of show.
TUESDAY MAY 13
Madonna’s new album might sound a tad out of touch, but Swedish electro-diva Robyn is a pop star we can get behind. Berbati’s Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 9 pm. $15. 21+.
LEARN: Attend a SPIN workshop with founder Gail Vandersteen and Roxanne Christensen, 1900 Building, Room 2500A, 1900 SW 4th Ave. 9 am-4 pm Saturday, May 10. $40, includes SPIN guide. To register, call 823-7553 or email Lindsey.email@example.com. Learn more at spinfarming.com or PDX’s own citygardenfarms.com.