Deborah Kane is the Vice President of Food and Farms for Ecotrust, a Portland, Oregon-based conservation and economic development group that has their hands in a variety of powerful pots including a USDA-backed online service called FoodHub that helps connect farms of every size with schools, hospitals, caterers, restaurants, and distributors. Deborah is also the publisher of Edible Portland. She was invited to the White House a few weeks ago to brief President Obama on FoodHub, which she hopes will go national next year.
What issues have you been focused on?
I’m very focused on connecting producers to domestic markets. While I’m making sure that farmers are meeting restaurants, grocers, caterers, hospitals, we also have a specific expertise in school food service directors. I’ve been focused on creating market opportunities in general and more specifically on schools.
What inspires you to do this work?
I just get a thrill from the e-mail or the phone call from the farmer that says they have a new customer, account or client because of the work we do. For me, it’s all about farmers, ranchers, and fisherman operating viable business that will be around in the future.
What’s your overall vision?
That good food be available wherever people shop and congregate. That it would be unthinkable to sit down at a meal in any context, whether on an airplane, your aunt’s house or in a school cafeteria and not know where the food came from. Unthinkable in the context that it would be such the norm in our country. I want to live long enough to be alive for the day when most people don’t remember it any other way.
What books and/or blogs are you reading right now?
I’m always reading Edible Portland, of course. And, I’m lucky to read it a season ahead, in advance of it’s publish date. I look at COMFOOD, Eater PDX, and the FoodHub blog daily, and the Capital Press weekly. I’m addicted to checking FoodHub membership growth; I’ll log in every 10 minutes.
Who’s in your community?
Farmers, ranchers, and fisherman of all shapes and sizes. Right now my community is primarily the FoodHub community, all the sellers, buyers, and also the associates (freelance writers, NGOs, farmers market managers, etc.) plus the distributors from the Syscos to the small mom and pops that use the service. We’re trying to create a hub that’s neutral and for everyone from Republicans to Democrats, and from small farmers to big; it’s a dynamic community. With FoodHub we have an opportunity to daylight the fact that not all organic farmers are small and unsophisticated in their business practices and not all large corporate farmers are irresponsible in regards to their environmental practices; I’m constantly trying to bridge these perceptual differences.
What are your commitments?
Getting more sleep. Trying to practice what I preach both professionally and personally. On the professional side I work for Ecotrust, which is focused on the triple bottom line, so I’m constantly managing those parameters and looking at how to create a sense of balance and sustainability in my daily as well as professional life.