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Local food activist makes the farm-bike-sailboat connection

Posted by on December 2nd, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Part of the farm-bike-boat delivery team at
last year’s Village Building Convergence on
the dock at OMSI.
(Photos courtesy of CultureChange.org)

Jan Lundberg moved to Portland a year ago because it seemed like the best place to pursue his intersecting passions for food security, peak oil, bicycles, and sailing.

These passions will be coming to fruition later this month when the oil analyst’s brainchild, the Sail Transport Network, will launch into its first major, ongoing local venture. Lundberg is finalizing plans to deliver malted grain from Vancouver, Washington to a brewery further down the Columbia River by a combination of cargo bike and sailboat.

The next phase in the project will be to use the same bike-boat combination to deliver the finished product — bottles and kegs of beer — to Portland markets. (Lundberg asked that we not name the brewery until the plan is finalized.)

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Lundberg intends this partnership to be the seed of a radical change in the way we transport — and think about — food.

“Just taking care of a brewery and being able to distribute some beer is not really food security,” he told us over the phone. “But what you can do is add on to this existing system with more farms, more bike carts, more sailboats, and more CSA subscribers — and that’s the way it grows.”

“People want to eat local, right? Well how’s that food getting to them? It’s being trucked from Corvallis and Richland … it’s just kind of all over the map. There are farms on Sauvie Island, and there are community gardens and backyard gardens and Food Not Lawns. All this has to be integrated. We’ve demonstrated this before, but we want to make it a regular feature.”

Lundberg has made this connection before, in his past home of Humboldt County, California, with the organization Pedal Powered Produce, and with several smaller projects in the Puget Sound.

Loading peas from cargo bike to sailboat
on Sauvie Island last summer.

When he first moved to Portland a year ago he quickly connected with food and localization activists at the City Repair Project and helped to organize food delivery for their annual conference last June, the Village Building Convergence. He joined a team of volunteers who delivered 60% of the food for meals during the event by bicycle, and Lundberg arranged sailboat and bike delivery of a load of produce from Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island. He hopes that next year’s event will feature even more local food delivered via the waterways.

The goal, he says, is to get as much food as possible directly from farms to consumers, without intermediaries that include shipments by truck. He’s hoping to move away from motorized transportation — last week, he removed the motor from his sailboat, making it entirely wind-powered.

“There’s not a lot of money for this kind of work — you just have to do it yourself. It’s not a boondoggle or a structure, it’s like — Hey, join in the fun.”
– Jan Lundberg

Lundberg says he’s currently focusing on building up the Sail Transport Network by connecting with everyone he can. He’s seeking donated cargo bikes and trailers that can be kept at the various docks where he ports; he also is looking for potential partners — farmers, consumers, sailors, gardeners, bike delivery people, restaurants, breweries, and anyone with ideas and energy. “All we need is more people to plug in to participate.”

“There’s not a lot of money for this kind of work — you just have to do it yourself,” he said. “It’s not a boondoggle or a structure, it’s like — Hey, join in the fun.”

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16 Comments
  • John C December 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I like the idea of river transport, but as someone who has sailed a lot on the Columbia and Willamette, it’s tough to have dependable sailing conditions all the time. Given that and the bridges, it makes for a very ambitious sail only proposition. I think that electric assistance in the form of a sail drive (electric motor) with PV panels and a wind generator combined with sailing would be a much more reliable solution. The wind generator could charge a bank of batteries while the boat was at rest, having a reliable “green” electric motor when the wind dies or the current is to strong to sail against. JMHO.

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  • Bryan McLellan December 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    There is a cyclist in Seattle that’s doing something similar with his sailboat as well. He picks up from farms on the Olympic peninsula and delivers back to Seattle.

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  • Matt December 2, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Agriculture meets food processing meets sail-powered river transport. Now you’re talking about what made Portland so cool. So we see that it can be done again. But can it be done by regular people? Which is to say, people who don’t have a spare million and a sailboat. Is it just a demonstration, or is there a way to make it pay and grow?

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  • Todd Boulanger December 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    And for fun – how about a limited period bike ferry between Sauvie Island and Vancouver Port area during an event (Cyclecross Race at Krugers) or period (harvest weekend)?

    It is so sad that we can see Sauvie Island from vancouver but then have to bike an hour out of direction just to get there.

    – Todd

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  • Dylan December 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Right now I see this kind of thing as a way to work out the bugs in the system of delivery, not as an economically viable prospect. Cheap oil has artificially cheapened some goods that require transport. Once the real price, sans oil, is realized this kind of project will become cost effective.

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  • Zaphod December 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    I second #5. While some locals on the island would prefer fewer cyclists, a ferry service would be off the hook. That’s one thing that PDX is missing is a convenient bus-like water link for bikes & peds. Off topic no doubt.

    The boat>bike link is brilliant

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  • JAT in Seattle December 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I find this interesting, and I totally don’t want to be a hater here. I love bikes, sailboats and beer.

    But I hope that we can take the best of capitalism, such as the recognition of the role of efficiencies in production, and adapt them to a post-petroleum economy. Maybe in 20 or 40 years there will be practical sailing cargo vessels carrying grain from where it’s grown best (hint: probably not soggy Sauvie Island) up and down the Columbia and across the Sound, but for now putting a couple of kegs or turnips on a yachting sloop seems a little gimmicky.

    I’m not sure how much more I’d be ready to pay for this green beer right now.

    P.S. grain is grown, and then it’s malted – by a maltster.

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  • Fred Magyar December 3, 2009 at 8:38 am

    John C writes:

    “I think that electric assistance in the form of a sail drive (electric motor) with PV panels and a wind generator combined with sailing would be a much more reliable solution.”

    I have been thinking along the same lines, I live in South Florida near the intra coastal waterway. I’m currently working with building solar generators. Basically these are standard off the shelf systems consisting of PV panels, charge controllers, battery banks and sine wave inverters.

    I’m quite convinced that it would be quite feasible to incorporate electric assist drives such as an off the shelf 24 volt DC Torquedo Cruise electric outboard to a small boat.

    It would at least make navigating in tight spots or docking maneuvers a bit easier.

    If funds permit I would very much like to build a solar electric sailboat in the future.

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  • Seattle December 3, 2009 at 9:47 am

    We already do this up in Seattle, both privately, via Dave Reid’s Sail Transport Company, and longer-term, via Sustainable Ballard/Sustainable Communities ALL Over Puget Sound (SCALLOPS). Check out the great article in The Seattle Times about the groundswell of support we have, and the recent video clip of a sailing trip to Nash’s Produce, from KOMO-TV.

    But great to see it catalyzing in Oregon!

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  • LR December 3, 2009 at 10:39 am

    20hp 12 volt electric outboard can also be adapted as inboard. http://www.psnw.com/~jmrudholm/etekoutboard.html

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  • Fred Magyar December 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

    LR,

    That Etek sounds promising indeed! Thanks for the links

    Fred

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  • LR December 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Glad to help, I can’t find the link just now but one guy replaced his motor on I think it was 32 tanzer with this same setup only it was inboard.
    Said it was great and quite.

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  • LR December 4, 2009 at 3:46 am

    No joke son,

    As testimony their flying a few ultralight airplanes with this motor, it puts out.

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