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Photo by Ashley Walters
Photo by Ashley Walters
Photo by Ashley Walters
Photo by Ashley Walters
Photo by Ashley Walters
Photo by Ashley Walters

Blossom + Sanctuary Produce Farms : R&B singer stops to smell (and grow) the cauliflower

By RACHEL GOOD// Share the land: singer Blossom reimagines community supported agriculture at Sanctuary Produce Farm.

This time last year, R&B singer Blossom was basking in the glow of a new album: the dreamy, deeply personal LP Maybe. Today, she’s presiding over a row of cauliflower in Dallas, Oregon. “When the world stopped, we found a way to be fruitful and grow,” the new co-owner of Sanctuary Produce Farm says.

In partnership with fourth-generation farmer and landowner Alex VanOutryve, Blossom is expanding the concept of community supported agriculture (CSA). While Sanctuary Produce Farm offers traditional weekly or biweekly subscriptions for produce boxes, the farm also makes free CSA packages available to BIPOC households. Surplus produce -- “abundance,” in Blossom’s words -- is donated to Crisis Kitchen, a chef-driven endeavor launched this March to provide free meals to individuals who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

Blossom met VanOutryve earlier this year when he was exploring the idea of a CSA that would allow subscribers to both purchase and donate produce to the BIPOC community. Her eager response led him to invite her out the farm for herself. “We started this with me just going to help at the farm: harvesting, planting, walking the land,” she recalls. But inspiration struck quickly. “It’s just my personality to say ‘there’s something here and I can help.’”

VanOutryve was cultivating crops for 15 hours every day single-handedly to feed up to 40 people. Blossom knew that wasn’t sustainable. More importantly, she knew people who could help. “I’m a singer; I go out and bond with people,” she says. “And the people I’ve met in the craziest, funnest situations, the people I’ve connected with most, have turned out to be the most service-minded community members.” She’s drawing on those connections to build a strong, engaged network of volunteers and hopes to add paid employees to the Sanctuary Produce family. She is also working to build mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations dealing with food insecurity. Blossom, an unlikely farmer but a natural leader, lays out her current vision: “We’re trying to build so we can put resources back in the farm. We want to be a resource of abundance and the simple luxury of having access to food.”

Assembled by Andrea Celeste, who also runs the farm food pantry, Sanctuary Produce Farm’s CSA boxes include sustainably farmed produce supplemented with preserved items, baked goods, and herbs contributed by BIPOC community members. In addition to equitably sharing these items, Blossom and VanOutryve are committed to helping BIPOC homeowners cultivate their own “abundance” through workshops and apprenticeships at the farm. “We want Black and brown people to know there’s a farm that wants them to be there,” Blossom says. “It’s hard owning land and the Black people in this community got the land bought out from under them.”

Agriculture is indeed an overwhelmingly white industry: nationally, just 1.4 percent of American farmers are Black, and 90 percent of these growers live in Southern states. Helping the BIPOC community learn how to successfully turn city lots into dinner takes the “farm-to-table” concept back to its roots of Black and brown families sharing homegrown meals and bonding at the dinner table. Its impact extends well beyond simple nutrition, as Blossom clearly realizes. “We’ve created this hub of food warriors and this is how they’re protesting, how they’re fighting injustice. We’re creating resources ourselves and being our own exchange.”

The farm may occupy a great deal of her time, but Blossom hasn’t stopped making music. In early July, the former Pickathon performer and Willamette Week Best New Band finalist released a new EP. Things I Whispered in The Dark features Charlie 3rown and Samuel Eisen-Meyers and includes both “an ode to ghosting” and a call to arrest Breonna Taylor’s murderers. She’s also discovering a fresh creative energy in her new project. “Being on the farm is really good for my mental health,” Blossom confides. “It gives me creative stimulation; I’m really inspired by the disconnect between here [the Portland music industry] and there.”

Listen to (and buy) Things I Whispered In the Dark here.

Still, the farm’s energetic power is undeniable. “This is bigger than me, it’s bigger than anyone,” Blossom says excitedly. “Taking food out of the ground and eating it really helps you find your place in the circle of the world. I can’t wait to see where we go next.”

Donations to Sanctuary Produce Farm can be made through Venmo (@sanctuaryproduce). If you’re interested in volunteering with the farm’s day-to-day operations, email sanctuaryproduce@gmail.com for more information.

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