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Jen Browning of Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR
Jen Browning wearing our This Is Women's Work Tank
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Public Market Good's goal with these farmer features is to offer up our platform to amplify farmers' stories. We want to celebrate and champion farmers all across the globe and make their voices heard in the conversation around climate change and sustainability.

Being "ag-vocates" to us means advocating for the representation of all farmers, growers, and ranchers. Our hope is that #SustainabilityAgvocates fosters inclusivity and recognizing diversity within the farming community.

We are pleased to feature farmer Jen Browning as our seventh #SustainabilityAgvocate. Jen Browning runs Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR.
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Jen Browning of Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR
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Tell us about your farm!

My name is Jen and I started Juniper Layne Farm in January 2019 on 1/8 acre in my parent’s backyard. The farm is a small diversified vegetable farm located just outside of Portland OR in the suburb of Happy Valley.  Where did the name Juniper Layne come from? Well, Juniper is a nickname given to me by my younger brother when he was in middle school and it stuck. Layne is my middle name. I am Juniper Layne!

2020 is seeing a lot of growth of the farm.  I have doubled my growing space to ¼ acre, added a propagation greenhouse, high tunnel for tomatoes and peppers, and I’m adding to additional markets including Farm Fridays here at the farm. Each Friday throughout the rest of the season, the farm will be open from 2pm-6pm and the community is welcome to come shop from the farm stand, walk around the farm, and meet our flock of 24 laying hens.

Juniper Layne Farm is also a Certified Naturally Grown farm.
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Jen Browning of Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR
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How did you get into farming?

If there is a typical path to farming, I didn’t follow it. I have been working for the last 15 years in the non-profit social service sector. Although my jobs have changed, one constant has been my passion for food. I love to cook and enjoy good food with family and friends. I love documentaries and books about food, food systems, access to food, and local food movements. As this passion has continued to grow and as I saw the impact of our industrial food system on our health, I want to be a part of creating positive change in the world by joining the hundreds of other farmers doing the same.

The steps toward farming started very small, while I was living in a 1-bedroom apartment in Seattle, WA with absolutely no soil to grow anything in. I took a beginning farmer class from Washington State Extension called Cultivating Success and the dream continued to grow. I read more books, listened to all the episodes of The Farmer to Farmer Podcast, attended webinars, seminars, and anything I could get my hands on as the dream continued to grow.

In the spring of 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to be a foster parent for newborn twins (boy and girl) and I immediately left Seattle and moved back to Portland to care for them.  They were in my care for 4 months before returning to their biological father in July 2018. At that time, I had a decision to make - do I return to my career in Seattle or follow this dream? I was able to take a few more months off from my job after the twins left and volunteered a few days a week at a nearby farm.  Those few months of farming was the most healing thing I did after the twins left and confirmed that farming was the next right step for me. All of this led to taking a giant step in 2019 to pursue a career in farming and the launch of Juniper Layne Farm.
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 What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a farmer? 

I started the farm with about $3,000 which goes very quickly. Thankfully I was using my parent’s property to get started. For another year, I continued to work remotely for the non-profit in Seattle I had been working for, so the farm didn’t need to pay me yet. But this past February I wrapped up that job and am solely farming.  Without the support of my parents, I would have needed to save for several more years to be able to start farming.  Access to land will be the biggest challenge going forward.
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Jen Browning of Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR
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What are your thoughts and beliefs on farming in the face of climate change?

As a new farmer, I don’t have years of experience to draw from as far as how climate change will impact the production side of my business, but I believe it will have a significant impact. I want to invite consumers into a different way to source their food. Food that doesn’t travel long distances to get to their table. I want to grow food that is accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford it.

I am mindful of the environmental impact of farming and am choosing to farm on a human scale, without the use of tractors and heavy equipment. I also want to farm with minimal tillage of the soil to build healthy soils for plants to thrive.  

In the current moment of a global pandemic, people are seeing the impacts of a broken food system and the interest in local food seems to be renewed.  Local food is handled by far fewer people, not traveling thousands of miles, and not sitting on many different surfaces in warehouses or grocery stores. Fresh, local food last longer so there is less waste in our kitchens.
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Juniper Layne Farm in Portland, OR
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What future are you farming for and how do you think your farm can make a difference?

All cultures are centered around food and I want people to continue to gather together around food and nourish those they love with the best ingredients. I’m farming to promote that as a healthy lifestyle, slower pace of life, and inviting people into a different way to source food. I believe we all benefit from being just one step closer to where our food comes from. And taking one step closer where our food comes from is usually followed by another step closer and another.
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Where can we continue to follow and support you?