Compassion and Conservation: The Heart of Kindness Farm

By Jack Rubinger

There’s a lot of love in the hands and hearts of the many volunteers at the new Kindness Farm in SE Portland. 

Started by Lou Levit, Kindness Farm has two important missions. First, to grow nutritious, healthy fruits and vegetables for our houseless and low income neighbors in need and second, to practice and teach regenerative gardening practices that nourish and conserve the land. 

“Our farm is based on an idea we call The Kindness Model,” explained Levit. “We believe that kindness is not only the most compassionate, but also the most practical model for the world to live by. 

“Unfortunately, this is often distorted by a world that forces us to choose our own survival over helping others. Kindness Farm is our way of moving the world in a kinder direction.”

Located in the neighborhood behind the Leach Botanical Garden, on an acre and a quarter of donated land, Kindness Farm has received an outpouring of community support since it opened its doors to volunteers. 

In the last 10 weeks, they’ve clocked close to 800 volunteer hours and have received countless in-kind donations from organizations like Portland Nursery, PBOT, Dirt Hugger Compost, One Green World and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air for volunteers of all ages to be able to spend time outside, building community and doing meaningful work with their hands,” said Levit. “People enjoy being out in nature on the peaceful farm, especially after all the isolation experienced with COVID-19. The mental health benefits are palpable.” 

Volunteer Katya Watson loves Kindness Farm as it is “a place where we all can come together to help the community with time and skills, working together to feed our hungry neighbors.” 

Ryan Elwood, the farm’s Chief Operating Officer, works alongside Levit to create no-dig beds, sow seeds, co-lead volunteer work parties, work on grants, help coordinate the farm’s internship programs and more. There’s much to be done. 

“Lou and I both share a deep connection to the land and have a passion for empowering others and helping our communities be in relationship with the Earth,” said Elwood. 

“It feels refreshing to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who shares this vision. I also appreciate the care that is going into the way in which the farm operates. We are actively creating a container where people can come to heal, especially now during a global pandemic and be among like-minded people who love to help because it’s the compassionate thing to do.”

“We will be gifting our produce to organizations making meals for our houseless neighbors and creating free produce boxes for our low-income neighbors,” he continued, “filling both an urgent need for more food security in an insecure time, and injecting humanity back into our relationship with those that live around us geographically,” said Elwood.

The folks from Dirt Hugger Compost have been impressed with Kindness Farm’s ability to rally partners and enthusiasm for community farming.

“With so many starting to think about sustainable gardening, farming and our urban environments differently, it is special to see others sharing their time generously, along with experience, enthusiasm and creating access for everyone,” said Nate Fleming of Dirt Hugger.

Kindness Farm is a place for individuals to come be who they are, wherever they are on their journey; a place to come get intimately acquainted with plants, soil and the local community.

It’s a place where everyone is empowered to have a hand in cultivating and tending to the land as their own.

Information on their Earth Day event and fundraiser is on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Visit thekindnessmodel.org to support their work. 

Photo of and by Lou Levit

Compassion and Conservation: The Heart of Kindness Farm

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