After graduating from University of Wisconsin and working for a bit on a friend’s 10,000 square foot garden, Louis and his wife, Tyne, traveled from Wisconsin west, like the settlers of the past, looking for a place to settle down. Portland was an attractive option — Louis had visited the city before and Tyne was interested in a strong midwifery school program here. In 2012, they decided that Portland was the place and made the move.
Cooperatives have been an interest of Louis's ever since he took a college class about them. Since joining Our Table as a worker member, he has had an opportunity to learn about and help the Co-op practice its commitment to Dynamic Governance — a process that makes decisions by consent rather than voting, where the majority rule can disenfranchise minority voters. Cooperatives also avoid hierarchical management structures by replacing the idea of “getting ahead” with a structure of co-ownership.
Louis feels privileged to be one of three workers that live on the farm property, and looks forward to a time when any worker member that wanted to could live on-farm. Living here, he especially notices and appreciates the life-giving sunlight, and the beauty of sunrises and sunsets. Schaffer, Louis and Tyne's son, was born on the farm and is doted on by everyone. Louis imagines Schaffer growing up on this piece of land and climbing the trees that were recently planted.
The hardest part about living on the farm is managing your time, since there is always work to be done. Summer season work starts around 7am and, if he is lucky, ends around 5:30pm. All the workers manage to take time off each year for vacation, but they never leave each other hanging, so summer is usually not the season for breaks. Working at Our Table is like being a part of a family; all the workers have each other’s backs.
Louis really resonates with Our Table’s commitment to the larger goal of changing the culture around the food we eat. He sees this as a long-term process of learning and teaching others about the true costs of different farming practices to our long-term health and climate management. Along with a number of other local farms, Our Table is helping to develop a better picture of how to produce healthy food and thriving environments. But there are still challenges. Farm workers are not on a get-rich life path, but neither do they aspire to poverty. All the workers at Our Table look forward to the time the farm is profitable and their incomes can be supplemented by sharing in this endeavor. In two words, Louis sums up what gives him the most pleasure working here at Our Table: autonomy and community!