Watch Harvesting Our Stories, a film produced by Arts in Education of the Gorge Director, Shelley Toon Lindberg and directed by filmmaker, David Hanson.  This ArtPlace America grant funded project was a collaboration with the Libraries of Eastern Oregon.  We brought 5 artists and 5 farmers together to draw attention to the issue of food insecurity in the gorge and to feast together on food harvesting by those featured in the film.  The 20-minute film will excite your senses and give you hope in the power of the arts to bring people together to address contemporary social issues.  

​Harvesting Our Stories:
A collaboration of farmers and artists in the Columbia River Gorge to draw attention to the issue of food insecurity. (Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties)

Five farmers were paired with five artists from August to September, to get to know one another and collaborate on a work of art.  This pairing made sense because farmers and artists both work in isolation to cultivate a product over time that is brought to market.  On October 7, 2016, the community shared a dinner harvested by the farmers involved in the project and enjoyed the art created by the featured artists, to learn more about the issue of local food insecurity. Film-maker, David Hanson documented the process from the first introduction of farmers and artists, to farmers working on their farms, artists working in their studios and Chef Ben Stenn preparing the harvested food for the community feast. On November 10, the Harvesting Our Stories film screened at the Hood River County Library with over 100 people in the audience.

Notable partners:  Arts in Education of the Gorge, Gorge Grown Food Network, Celilo Restaurant, Hood River County Library District, Oregon Humanities, LEO, ArtPlace

Shelley Toon Lindberg, coordinator of this event, social practice artist and arts administrator: 

I developed the concept of Harvesting Our Stories after the Columbia Gorge Health Council identified food insecurity as the most notable issue affecting our community’s overall health.  The Columbia River Gorge boasts a well spring of farmers and artists and community-minded people who work together to build a healthy community.  All of these people have stories to share that we can all learn from.  Hood River County alone has over 7,000 acres of orchards and other farms-- which made it difficult to fathom that people were hungry here.  One in five people are skipping meals or worried about their next meal.  After talking to people who are involved with this issue, I understood that it’s not that there’s not enough food, it’s more of an issue of getting the food to the people who need it.

Hunger is not an easy issue to address, but I knew that if more people in our community knew the statistics around food insecurity in the gorge, they would want to help.  

I know the arts have a way of softening difficult issues and making it easier to address them -- giving voice to those who might not typically speak and shining a light on the dark and beautiful places that expose our humanity.  Utilizing film as the art medium was the obvious choice.  I contacted film-maker, David Hanson because of work he has done around food.  He was game.  His films have a way of capturing the vastness of a landscape and raw human emotion with a poetic simplicity and humility that draws in the viewer.  Simply put, he helps people tell their stories.  

Seeing it all come together was immensely satisfying. Sharing our stories, talking to one another, finding our own humanity in the stories of others -- it matters.  It leaves a lasting mark on the community and hopefully changes it for the better. – Shelley Toon Lindberg

*Important Note:  The Columbia River Gorge, particularly the work of Gorge Grown and the Veggie RX program, was awarded the coveted Culture of Health Prize by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in September 2016.

David Hanson, director and producer, created a 21-minute film with five artists on five farms spanning the Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon in Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties:

Everyone was enthusiastic about the project. There was a great sense of collaboration among farmers and artists whose work rarely overlaps. 

Artist MacRae Wylde was blown away by the vastness of Brad Anderson's wheat farm. He picked through Anderson's old tractor parts like they were some form of naturally weathered folk art. 

Chelsea Heffner went with me to watch Brigitte and Sean McConville clean their overnight salmon harvest along the banks of the Columbia. We were both blown away by the efficiency and effort it takes to net and process so many giant fish by hand. 

I saw Cathleen Rehfield at Saur Farms as she met Ben and Anastasia and got to know their primitive, low-impact method of farming for market produce with two horses. 

I think we all walked away with a greater appreciation for our agricultural roots and for the people working with their hands to bring good, honest food to the Gorge. 

I was very pleased with how the “Harvesting Our Stories” dinner and conversation came together. While the film was more a celebration of the farmers and artists in our community, I do think it's a useful tool to spur conservation and hopefully action and fundraising to address hunger issues in the Gorge.  – David Hanson

Five farms, five artists + one chef:

Ben Sauer and Anastasia Mejia, farmers, Parkdale, OR  -- Cathleen Rehfield, artist.

Hood River artist Cathleen Rehfield created seven oil paintings on site and in her studio. 

I wanted to capture what they see every day on their farm.  I wanted to express what they experience there in my painting. I think I now understand what we share, the farmer and the artist, a commitment to the work and just doing what we care about every day. – Cathleen Rehfield

Katrina Alexander, orchardist - Mt. View Orchard, Parkdale, OR – Chloë Hight, artist.

​Trina is a nurse practitioner who bought the orchard from her parents who she describes as educators who “opened up the farm like a big living room. It’s not intensely lucrative, but it’s intensely satisfying.”

Walking around the farm with Trina, I was inspired by her knowledge of each plant and fruit tree we walked past. I wanted to create a piece of work that wove together the colors, smells and plants of the farm landscape. I dyed wool and silk with natural pigments from two cherry varieties and native Oregon grape berries from the farm. Woven into the piece are plants I harvested from the farm.  – Chloë Hight

Brad Anderson, farmer - Triangle Ranches, Hood River – MacRae Wylde, artist. 

Triangle Ranches is a 2800-acre wheat farm that has been in the family since 1888. 

I made two pieces for this project.  Both are vertical in response to the vast horizontal landscape at Brad’s farm.  The first, "Harvest Totem” was made from used plow blades.  

The farm is a big wide-open space without many people where views for miles with few trees and swaths of color - blue sky, yellow fields, huge white windmills in the distance.  The sculpture, “Arlington,” was inspired by that and designed to sit at the top of one of Brad’s rolling hills to break the horizon, poking up into the sky.  It is designed to shake and vibrate in the wind.  – MacRae Wylde

Tim Jefferies, rancher - Sherman County – Virginia Flynn, artist. 

We moved here 18 years ago to live off grid. We try to raise a product that is clean. All grass-fed beef. No antibiotics, no hormones. Our closest neighbors are three and five miles away.   – Tim Jefferies

The Jefferies' ranch was the stuff of my childhood imagination. Space. Cattle.  Dogs.  Gardens.  Split rail fences.  A long gravel road.  And two of the nicest people I have ever met; Tim and Keely.  

Over the years I have studied art in different forms and mediums at various institutions across the country.  Always, I come back to papercuts. Black and white is my life. No gray, no color. It either is, or it isn’t. I just really love making paper cuts and I’m into cows right now. – Virginia Flynn

Bridgette and Sean McConville, salmon fishers, Columbia River -- Chelsea Heffner, artist. 

Watching Brigette work, seeing her connection to the fish and the river made me realize how the work she does is so much more than a job. It's a connection to her lineage, to strong and powerful women who have come before her and to her rights as a Treaty Tribe member to fish in the Columbia River. 

Watching her bead, seeing her artwork and hearing about her basketry and materials gathering had a profound impact on my piece. 

“Columbia Traditions” was drawn by hand; taking formal reference from traditional Columbia Plateau beaded purses, and screen printed to create a series of multi-colored prints.  – Chelsea Heffner

Ben Stenn, aka Chef Ben, Owner, Celilo Restaurant, Hood River, OR. 

I’m on the food preparation end of it. You’ve got these great people and they’re providing very specific ingredients. We’re participating in one of life’s great moments – sit down, eat, enjoy being here. – Ben Stenn