Farmer Don Kruger, owner of Kruger’s Farm Market on Sauvie Island, says he’s “hanging tough” after the recent Multnomah County decision on his farm stand permit.
During a standard permit update process that was triggered by a complaint from one of Kruger’s neighbors, the County ruled that Kruger is no longer allowed to host several of the activities that have made his farm a popular destination for many in the Portland region.
In their decision, the County ruled that the only fee-based activities that can happen at the farm are weekly “harvest festivals” and the corn maze. As for bike races, the County wrote that, “The bike races are inconsistent with the code criteria and are not an activity that promotes the sale of farm crops.”
“I think the people that come out to bike races fit much more than the teenage, drunken crowd that comes out for the haunted corn mazes… that’s why I don’t do one.”
— Don Kruger
Kruger told me via telephone this morning that the process of dealing with the County “has been brutal,” (it’s also cost him about $30,000 in legal fees so far) but that he and his lawyers are “coming up with a game plan,” for how to move forward.
Kruger does not plan to appeal the decision (in part because it would mean an immediate end to his concert series; the deadline for an appeal is next Wednesday). Instead, he and his lawyers will try to work within the permit framework to try and hold the events Kruger says are vital to his farm’s future.
According to Kruger, his top priority is to work with his lawyers to make bike races fit under the County’s Mass Gathering Ordinance. That ordinance allows farm stands in the Exclusive Farm Use zone to hold mass events once per quarter.
Kruger said he’s willing to turn over all four of his mass gathering events to bike races; “I’ve told Kris [bike race promoter Kris Schamp] that I’m willing to give the bike races all of them. I think we could have a wonderful, quarterly celebration, with each bike race in a different season.”
Kruger loves the bike races and the people that come to them and he doesn’t understand why the County won’t allow bike racing but they will allow haunted corn mazes. “I think the people that come out to bike races fit much more than the teenage, drunken crowd that comes out for the haunted corn mazes,” he said, “that’s why I don’t do one… the one on the other side of the island is a circus, it’s Disneyland.”
He continued; “What justification does a corn maze have, versus me having a bike race? What if we just had a bicycle corn maze out here and the course just happens to expand?”
Some people say that the County is doing their job by preserving Kruger’s land for farm use only (an important land use, for sure), but Mr. Kruger contends that the legislative intent of the farm stand ordinance specifically allows farms to do events to survive. “The law is very clear, it says I can do things that are fee-based as long as the proceeds don’t exceed 25% of farm stand sales.”
So why did the county say no to bike races? “It’s all interpretation,” Kruger says, “and right now this is how they’ve interpreted it.”
Another thought some commenters have had was, ‘Why not just make the bike races free?’ (thus, getting around the “fee-based activities” stipulation). Kruger said that could be an option. He envisions that the race entry fee could come in the form of a purchase from his store. But for now, Kruger doesn’t want to push that issue. He’d rather let the dust settle and figure out his legal options.
For now, Kruger says he’d love to have a lot of people on bikes show up to the concert planned for tomorrow night. “Bring your bike, you’re welcome to ride around the farm. Find your course, ride wherever you want, it’s all open,” he said.
Kruger is disappointed that this has become such a cat-and-mouse game with the County, but he’s determined to find a way to work things out. He’s also saddened by the amount of vitriol that has been spewed at him (in part, he says, because of inaccurate news reports about the situation).
Kruger is proud that, after being broke in 2002, he clawed his way back to buy the farm and make it successful. But business success aside, he gets passionate when he talks about his vision for the land.
“My vision is to do even more, to buy the back eight acres… This is a public farm, people can do anything they want here. Without me, you’d have a gate and a commercial nursery here; and many people who are saying horrible things about me would rather have that. But the public, the people who deserve this island, don’t feel that way.”
So what is the rationale for allowing the corn maze but not the races.
I pay to go to a farm to wander through a maze.
I pay to go to a farm and wander through the race course on my bike.
Where is the substantial legal difference?
Any bike issues aside, Thank God(s)(ess) for people like Kruger. We need to save our lands for all to enjoy, not just the priveleged few…
He deserves all of our support – and not just for the races.
I just don’t understand how Multnomah County can even pretend to be responsible government when they are actually causing declining tax revenues in a recession where we’ve not yet even hit the lowest point.
Sounds like a great opportunity for a cargo bike race on Kruger’s farm. All racers must transport a bushel of corn from the field to the barn. First with five bushels wins. How could that not be farming related?
A bike corn race maze would be awesome and kind of hilarious. I would totally go to the bike races if my ‘ticket’ was buying a few pints of Kruger’s amazing strawberries.
sounds like a nice guy. i wish him luck.
Ok, there have to be dozens of unemployed planners out there – perhaps this is a call to action.
You know that this is no devious plot from the County. The staff are simply following the law and past precedent. If Kruger decides to appeal the decision, maybe some folks can put together a research and writing group to better address the criteria and findings. I’m assuming that that the next step would be to the Commission – with this fresh research in hand, they may be able to better “interpret” the findings.
Not charging a fee to race raise questions:
–must race promoters carry some kind of insurance to stage a bike race?
–if so, who pays for it if there’s no race fee?
As for what constitutes proper use of land, it’s not just Kruger’s land that’s in question here, but the roads and surrounding properties that are affected by several HUNDRED people showing up to race and to watch. That’s a lot of cars, trucks and what-have-you, on limited and agriculturally delicate land. Perhaps that is part of the concern that led Multnomah County to its decision.
Is there a way to lessen the impact on the land, or have the bike races become too popular for that line of thinking?
beth..easily answered. yes, organizers pay about $1.00/person for insurance through OBRA. no race fee = no “race”.
not recognized by any race organization…results do not apply towards any future race outcomes.
lessen the impact? what do you propose?
this isn’t about impacting land..its about proper zoning and grumpy neighbors…
This seems to be a land use issue. Worse still, special interest exceptions for everyone’s special activity.
How about this: eliminate ALL exceptions and variances from simple farm use. Basically disallow everything BUT farming and the resisdences required on said land to house the owner ONLY.
NEXT, require that every exception and variance be rejustified every 5 – 10 years. Essentially you would have to reelect the policy or it is canceled.
I call on you corn mazes: justify your existence versus your negative impact on the enviroment and liveability.
I believe in land use planning but we allow too many loopholes to remain in our law essentially allowing one to ignore said law if you have enough lawyers.
“The bike races are inconsistent with the code criteria and are not an activity that promotes the sale of farm crops.”
Bike racers are healthy eaters therefore purchase fresh fruit and vegatables…which in turn promotes the sale of farm crops….Everytime I was out at Krugers last year I dropped at least another $20 to $30 on something to eat there, and take home.
I think this is a case of some jealous neighbors getting mad that Kruger was becoming successful.
I like the idea of “seasonal” races at Krugers.
There are lots of ways to show support for Kruger’s.
I rode out there Sunday picked some goodies, bought one of their cool t-shirts to wear and REALLY enjoyed a quiet morning on the farm. I’d highly recommend a visit soon since berry season is in full swing – marionberries are just getting ripe!
AND, they are holding a concert out there on Thurs eve – it might make for a nice afterwork ride, fun on the farm, night ride combo for those wishing to show their support.
I can see both sides of this- if farm land is blanket allowed for recreation, what’s to stop developers from turning the Willamette Valley into one big golf course? That’s been attempted many times, (well not the whole thing at once), and the land use regulation about farm activity is what’s stopped it.
What about an Agrarian Ally Cat?! It’s a very unique setting, and Kruger’s would be a kick-ass location! All of the tasks, challenges, etc. could be on an agricultural/local food theme so that the asshat County folk would be clear that our bikey fun was of the appropriate category. Everybody wins!