[Editor’s note: This story was written by BikePortland News Intern Dan Liu. Stay tuned for more photos and stories from Dan!]
(Photos: Dan Liu)
Last fall, North Portland bike repair and tool co-op Bike Farm celebrated its one-year anniversary by moving into a new space — one where the young non-profit now must make rent.
In other words, “We’re excited for the summer,” says Bike Farm’s volunteer analyst Momoko Saunders. “We really hope that the bike community will come out and support us as the weather gets better.”
At their new location in a former hair salon on 305 NE Wygant St., (their old location had been a donated residential garage off Alberta), Bike Farm has officially survived the winter slow-season thanks to individual memberships, donations, and volunteers’ sweat.
Started in November 2007, Bike Farm’s mission is to give people the knowledge and resources to repair their own bikes. Anyone can come into the shop and learn from volunteer mechanics how to fix and maintain their bike: use of the space and tools is $5 an hour for those who just need a random fix, while monthly and annual members are entitled to unlimited use of Bike Farm’s tools and advice from volunteer mechanics.
Bike Farm’s goal this year is to go beyond simple survival — they want to launch more programs and services that will permanently strengthen the DIY spirit of Portland cyclists. While many shops offer intensive bike repair classes, Bike Farm’s volunteers hope to be a more regular resource for Portlanders year-round; and, while the mission of the Bicycle Repair Collective in Southeast is much the same, Bike Farm’s challenge is to do its education and community-oriented work without the resources of a full time, professional repair shop.
Instead, all of Bike Farm’s operations are run by volunteers. “We’re consensus-run, so our volunteers’ input and initiatives can make an immediate impact on the way we run and organize ourselves,” says Saunders. The shop not only depends on volunteer mechanics, but also folks that want to donate their time to do anything from knitting caps for sale, building connections with other non-profits, and maintaining shop’s website.
For example, Bike Farm’s current monthly repair class, “Kasher Your Kogs“, was started by a volunteer after he was approached by nearby eco-Jewish intentional community, Beit Kayam. (Their next Kasher Your Kogs class is coming up on April 19th, 4pm; of course, all are welcome, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation.)
As a volunteer-driven organization, Bike Farm faces the dual challenges of gaining expertise and garnering interest. “Right now, we’re looking for a volunteer to help us out with community outreach… someone to help us spread the word, encourage new people to become members, and make the shop a fixture in the community,” says volunteer mechanic James Moore. A recent attempt to start a commuting class, for example, didn’t take off because few people even knew about it, while their bi-weekly Women & Trans shop hours have become more intermittent, after their cadre of female mechanics moved away to various parts of the country.
Anyone interested in volunteering can email email@example.com — or better yet, says James, “The best way to volunteer is to just show up at the shop!”
In addition to a volunteer community outreach coordinator, Bike Farm is also looking for volunteers to collect used parts donations, and of course, volunteer mechanics to run shop hours.
Bike Farm is at 305 NE Wygant St. and Garfield, one block west of MLK. Shop hours are Fri. 12-4, Sat. 11-6, Sun. 12-4, and Mon. 4-7.
(*Disclaimer: The author of this story is currently a Bike Farm volunteer mechanic.)
Great story. I will be checking out Bike Farm. Like the disclaimer.
Go Bike Farm. Great name, great logo, great idea.
I’ll be stopping by! I would love to learn how to take basic care of my bike – and I’d be happy to help pass that knowledge on, once I have it! 🙂
Interested in the commuting class that was mentioned? The Bike Farm is still trying to get it going, so sign up at the shop if you want to learn more about it, and tell your friends if they are timid about putting the fun between their legs. You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll be checking it out for sure and getting my friends to join me.
not a fan of the comparison to the bicycle repair collective. two very different shops. bike farm is more affordable and doesn’t require proof of knowledge to use the space. nothing against those guys, they’re very nice and have donated stuff to bike farm.
The other difference is the Bike Farm seems to want a hefty chunk of change to be a member, considering they are only open 15 hours a week.
I’m a former bike farm volunteer and just wanted to clear up some misinformation.
Bike Farm is actually open 18 hours a week, not 15. The people that make Bike Farm function are all volunteers. I’d say being open for 18 hours a week is pretty rad.
The cost of a bike farm membership is considerably less than buying your own set of bike tools, or taking your bike to a shop and not coming away with any knowledge of how to fix it yourself next time.
You can also look at it this way:
A years membership costs $65. If you consider that purchasing a year-long membership basically gives you access to Bike Farm for about 900 hours a year, it barely costs about $.07 an hour for a year-long membership.
Now of course no one is going make use of every single hour that Bike Farm is open. There are also 6-month and 1-month memberships to also choose from. If you only need a few hours of stand time, you can opt to pay a $5/hr drop in rate.
Ok, now I have officially spent entirely too much time writing a comment on the internet.
i have been volunteering at bike farm for over a year and it’s really pretty cool. i wouldn’t spend as much time there as i do if i didn’t think it was a neat resource and valuable to the community. so come check it out, and thanks bikeportland.
yes, i admit that for someone like me who is unemployed but needs a maintained bike to get around portland to find work, 65 dollars is a lot of money. that’s one of the many reasons i volunteer with bike farm. i put in my monthly required volunteer time, meeting attendance and have shown a high amount of responsibility and depedability and for that am given a key to the shop that allows me to use it off hours as well. if money is an issue we also have a work trade option. show up at the beginning of any shift, do a solid hour of work for us and you get the rest of the shift for free to work and recieve help from our all-volunteer run staff.
furthermore, if you have been apprehensive about using our shop due to time constraints, we welcome you to volunteer with us and help towards getting us open a few more days out of the week. we would love to have more shop days but getting enough people to put in that much work for no pay is like herding cats.
as always bike farm values the input of the community we try to serve and welcome people to attend our meetings if they have ideas they’d like to share. our next meeting is tonight (april 14th) at 7PM at our shop. it would be nice to hear further from you.
um, every time I have used the collective down on belmont it has cost me ten an hour and you are on your own. which is okay, because I had some cash in my pocket and I know what I am doing.
but at the farm, stand time is only five an hour and the mechanics on duty pitch in, lend a hand, explain stuff, help you through it. also, as noted at comment 10, if you volunteer an hour of your time you get three or four hours stand time free.
if you have skills and time and you want to see the farm open more hours, step forward and volunteer. they added fridays not long ago because someone stepped forward. if the farm gets a few bucks here and there, it goes to keeping the shop open and stocked with tools and parts, not into anyone’s pocket.
end of rant.
[disclaimer: I volunteer at the farm, and I also bought a year’s membership]
Steve, are you the same helpful person that posted comment #20 on the original post about Bike Farm?