Jun 07 2018

Nellie McAdams is Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland

One of my favorite things about client work is getting to know a little bit about each person we work with, and what makes them passionate about the work that they do. Uncovering and connecting with the story of their work is a key step in creating authentic design. It’s also just fun to learn new things, such as these figures about Oregon’s agricultural land:

  • Oregon is 25% agricultural land
  • In the next 20 years 64% of that land will change ownership as the current generation of farmers retires
  • That comes to 10.5 million acres changing hands, potentially irreversibly affecting Oregon’s natural resources, economy, and culture

Working Together for Working Lands

Portlander Nellie McAdams has made it her business to help protect those 10.5 million acres from development. In 2017, we worked with Nellie and Maggie Sisco to develop an infographic to explain succession planning and working land conservation easements that speaks to farmers, the general public, and decision makers about  the threats to farmland and how we can all help farmers safeguard their land against development.

Farmers comprise less than 1% of the population and, even for the motivated, Nellie says it can be difficult to break into the industry without a family connection. Startup costs are high, margins are low, and both the weather and the markets can be unpredictable, making farming for a living a challenging proposition.

Nellie’s professional background in environmental law and agriculture, as well as her lived experience growing up the daughter of a hazelnut grower, places her at an ideal intersection. She can relate to parties on all sides of farm succession.

Nellie McAdams chatting with Team Upswept. Photo by Sarah Giffrow.

Nellie says she was drawn to the farming lifestyle for personal reasons. For her, working the land is deeply gratifying, as are the natural connections with land and community, and she feels lucky to be set to inherit her father’s land when he’s ready to retire. For her, a farm is not only  a commodity to be bought and sold, but also an heirloom and natural resource. Both sentimental and practical in nature, it farmland more difficult to divide among successors than a typical business or estate.

When we met last fall, Nellie was splitting her workweek between her own farming training, and her outreach and program development work. In partnership with several organizations, Nellie leads programs that support a retiring generation of farmers with succession planning. They’re also building support for the next generation of Oregon farmers to help them gain the business and land-management skills they’ll need to succeed at farming.

Our Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland infographic is at work for these three organizations

The Oregon Community Food Systems Network is a collaboration of 40 nonprofit organizations and allies dedicated to strengthening local and regional food systems to deliver better economic, social, health and environmental outcomes across the state. They provide networking, information sharing, research, education, training, planning,  fundraising, and more to participating organizations in pursuit of their vision: that all Oregonians will have meaningful access to healthy and affordable foods that are grown and processed regionally in an environmentally and economically resilient food system.

Rogue Farm Corpsmission is to train the next generation of farmers and ranchers through hands-on educational program and the preservation of farmland. They do so by offering practical training programs and farm succession planning and access to land workshops.

The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program(OAHP) was passed by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature to help address the challenges of preserving farmland from development and helping farmers pass it on to the next generation. The program provides voluntary incentives to farmers and ranchers to support practices that maintain or enhance both agriculture and natural resources such as fish and wildlife on agricultural lands. OAHP was developed by a collaborative of organizations representing natural resource conservation and agriculture, including farmer and rancher representatives.

Good Design for Farmland

When Nellie and Maggie approached us to develop the Working Lands infographic, their “rough draft” was in pages of notes that  looked more a grant proposal outline than a snappy single-sheet infographic for public consumption.

The first phase of our work was in helping them and their stakeholders narrow down the scope of the document and refine the language to be concise, direct, and effective. Using color, typography, simple icons, and an intuitive content structure, we were able to communicate a lot of information into a relatively small space while maintaining a visually appealing and user-friendly look. After we completed the final product, Nellie told us that the development process of refining the images and talking points helped her better communicate about the issues in the rest of her work.

What makes you passionate about your work? Team Upswept can’t wait to hear about it, and work with you to reach your ideal audience and grow your business. Click to Get Started and schedule your consultation with us.

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