Q-and-A: Ecotrust’s new food chief Amanda Oborne on local eats

Amanda Oborne's new role at Ecotrust includes touting the importance of local food sourcing.

Amanda Oborne's new role at Ecotrust includes touting the importance of local food sourcing.

Amanda Oborne took over as Ecotrust's new director of food and farms on April 1.

And as she shapes her tenure as the leader of one of the region's key food influencers, she's not asking for much. She only wants institutional food directors — meaning the hospital and corporate and university food directors of the world, among other decision-makers — to be able to easily find local produce and regionally nurtured beef sources. She's encouraging infrastructure to emerge to make food delivery avenues more accessible. And she simply wants more Portland chefs to walk the locally sourced ingredients walk.

Oh, and she wants to bolster what's called the "Ag of the Middle" operations that have sagged as smaller and outsized food producers have become prevalent.

We caught up with Oborne a few weeks after she started her job, moving up from the top job at Ecotrust's FoodHub.

Sustainable Business Oregon: How did your transition to food systems work come about?

Amanda Oborne: I had been working in corporate direct marketing for 10 years and had always been motivated to “use my powers for good rather than evil” so to speak. I, like so many others, read "Omnivore’s Dilemma" and saw movies like "Future of Food" and "King Corn," and my eyes popped wide open about the way the large-scale agroindustrial food system works in this country.

At that same time, my parents — my dad was a university professor his whole career — retired and they opened a 100-percent grass-fed buffalo ranch in central Oregon. So I was getting exposed to a lot of food issues.

I started volunteering and networking with group of women chefs and restaurateurs, and discovered that FoodHub was hiring for a sales and marking director. I was a total dark horse, not being from the food community before, but in the end I think that’s been an advantage because I’ve had a business-oriented perspective that’s been helpful.

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