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.


Jun 22 2017

Local Business Spotlight: Tori Tissell

Tori Tissell, founding owner of Storiarts, maker of literary soft goods, has the kind of internet success story that entrepreneurial dreams are made of.

It started with a personal project. For holiday gifts in 2011, Tori created her first run of book scarves — an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice silkscreened onto a square of super soft, off-white (think the pages of a classic book) fabric. She gave most as gifts and listed a few for sale on Etsy.

Tori in her home workshop cutting material for a scarf.
Tori Tissell cutting out some Alice in Wonderland in her workshop.

Tori had been living in Portland since 2008, when she moved here in pursuit of a career in fashion design. She was working four days a week at an office job in the dental field, and worked on her creative projects with her time off. The book scarves were the first item she’d put up for sale on the peer-to-peer e-commerce site, which focuses on handmade and vintage items.

As a fashion accessory, the scarves were a perfect statement for Tori and some of her friends. One of the things that she likes about designing wearables, in addition to the utilitarian aspect, is that “no matter what, what [a person wears] expresses aspects of one’s personality.” A self-identified bibliophile and introvert, Tori liked that she could spark connection over one of her favorite things though her apparel choices, and keep her neck warm in our cool PNW winters, too.

Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

The Pride and Prejudice scarves sold quickly on Etsy, and Tori received many requests for more. The scarf got shared on Pintrest as well, further boosting interest. After three months, Tori was able to leave her office job and make scarves full-time.

Rising Action

Since 2011, Storiarts has expanded their catalog to celebrate more than 27 titles on scarves, fingerless writing gloves, t-shirts, pillows, and baby hats. Staying rooted in the Pacific Northwest is a key value in the company, and most of their products are printed, cut, sewn, warehoused, and shipped in Oregon, with some milling and cutting happening in LA. All of their products are handmade in the US, even though production has scaled up quite a bit since Tori made everything by hand in her garage. Now that the manufacturing is off her plate, Tori can focus on design of new products, as well as drawing all of the illustrations for their scarves, writing gloves, and t-shirts.

Though Storiarts was born through e-commerce sales and continues to sell through several online retailers, it wasn’t long before they expanded into sales at brick-and-mortar stores. The Library of Congress shop was the first to approach Tori about carrying book scarves, and today you find them in the New York Public Library as well, along with dozens of other libraries and boutiques across the US, and in Australia and New Zealand. 

To Be Continued…

Woman reading a book outside a coffee shop.
Amber modeling a lightweight summer scarf outside of our neighborhood coffee shop.

Upswept Creative does much of the marketing photography for Storiarts, from clean product shots to lifestyle photography like this one featuring Amber Nicotra, wearing a new scarf from their Spring 2017 collection. 

We love working with Tori and her co-owner and husband, Chris. Their company embodies so much of what we value in working with independent businesses — from their commitment to keeping it local, to the thoughtfully-crafted, pleasantly nerdy products they sell.

What’s your next creative venture? Let’s talk about discovering your authentic and compelling brand story that will help you connect with your ideal audience. The first step to schedule a free clarifying consultation is clicking ➡︎ here. ⬅︎



Apr 29 2015

Athletes into Superheroes: Conceptual Photography

Photography is a powerful way to make an impression, and creating unique conceptual art is just one way of doing it! A couple of years ago, I absentmindedly scribbled down the idea of shooting skaters from the Rose City Rollers’ all-star team, the Wheels of Justice, in superhero-inspired poses and settings. Seeing these people as heroes wasn’t much of a stretch, in my mind: at that time, I was a Fresh Meat skater without a team to call home, and I’d go positively starry-eyed watching these top-tier athletes do amazing, powerful, even gravity-defying things on skates.

So, when the team announced a “Heroes’ Ball” Fundraiser Party and Art Auction, it felt like the perfect opportunity to donate my time to support this team of inspiring women, and bring a concept to life. Over the course of two short weeks, we photographed four different Wheels of Justice skaters in unique Portland settings, and then edited and designed them into posters inspired by movie posters and superheroes. I researched and scouted locations all over Portland, recruited helping hands for lightning-fast lighting setup, and made the shots happen in record time. Together, we explored rooftops, busy downtown streets, and deserted industrial neighborhoods, and each skater brought grace and enthusiasm to the set.

We printed out the final posters at 18″x24″, framed them and had them autographed (both by the skaters and the artist), and they were then put up for as one-of-a-kind auction items at the fundraiser. The super-excellent DJ Agent Meow even queued up the appropriate superhero theme music as the posters were unveiled! I was excited to learn that the posters raised ~$1000 for the team at the fundraiser party and art auction, and I’m SO happy to help them on their way to becoming world champions.

The Wheels of Justice will be showing the world what they have to offer at The Big O tournament in Eugene this weekend, and I’ll be cheering my face off for them from Portland! We owe a big thank you to each of these skaters, for inspiring us and for making time to work with us. Now go get that Hydra! 😉

Chestnut #127 as Batman
Chestnut #127 as Batman
Scald Eagle #50 as Captain America
Scald Eagle #50 as Captain America
Moffatt #2 as the Incredible Hulk
Moffatt #2 as the Incredible Hulk
Gaither #26 as Superman
Gaither #26 as Superman