Meet Your Neighbors: Jeff Ong of Chowswap

Jeff Ong

Who are you?
I moved to Foster-Powell a little over a year ago. This is the first time I’ve owned a house, and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to grow tons of fruit and vegetables, brew lots of beer, make pickles, put up jellies and jams, etc…. I always dabbled in cheesemaking and baking, and now I’m going nuts with all kinds of other culinary projects.

What do you do?
I’m a Drupal Web developer, working out of my house. I work for marketing agencies, small businesses, and non-profits. I’ve been building Web sites for a living since 1993 (before Netscape was released!). I do site planning, design, programming… soup to nuts, basically. Recently I started up a labor of love, Chowswap. It’s a way for people who make or grow their own food to trade with others near them. Imagine you’ve just put up your 50th quart of tomato sauce…. you wipe your brow (and your countertops), and then think “Now what?” Well, instead of trudging back to the kitchen to put up some strawberry jam, why not trade some of your tomatoes for some sweet stuff? For chicken-keepers, now you can do something with that looming tower of full egg cartons in your fridge… or that menacing zucchini plant that JUST WON’T STOP. So, you just sign up for the site, and you can post your own food, and see what other people have posted. It’s great for carfree people like me, because you can see what’s nearby on the map, and plan your swaps accordingly.

What is your inspiration? (Why do you do what you do?)
I’m really excited about the project! It’s nice to work on something so non-corporate and grassroots. It’s been really neat to watch new users sign up, and see what kind of crazy food concoctions they’re posting. And it’s been interesting to meet up with those people face-to-face. I think we’ve all gotten a little trapped in the social media bubble, and we now think “sharing” means posting a link to your favorite cat video. I’m a big fan of sharing food… it’s one of the most basic, primordial ways to connect with other human beings.

What brought you and/or your business to the Foster-Powell Community?
Initially, I was drawn here by the ability to get a nice big plot of land to garden for a reasonable price. I’ve been really blown away by my neighborhood, though — the neighbors on all sides have been so friendly, and quirky, and charming. It’s a great mix of people who have been here for decades — my next door neighbors built their house in 1952! — and young families who moved here in the last few years. I hope it stays affordable and diverse.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Foster?
I’m a bike-only guy, so I roam around through the neighborhood on two wheels most of the time. I love racing down the dirt alleys on knobby tires. But I also appreciate the eclectic local businesses, and checking out everyone’s gardens.

3 Ways to unite the Fine Folks of Foster
1) Keep building up the awesome Carts on Foster pod. 2) Block parties — I met so many people at our recent one. 3) Get out on your bike, and cruise down Center!

How do you envision the future of Foster?
It would be great to see this area get a little more pedestrian and bike friendly. We have the odd position of being defined and encircled (en-triangled?) by three really busy, major roads, none of which are much fun to travel or even cross on a bike. If the Streetscape Plan really comes to fruition, I think Foster Blvd. could be a whole lot nicer very quickly, and local businesses could almost immediately experience an upswing. Cars just pass right through a neighborhood — cyclists and pedestrians linger and explore.

Some top fives to appease the list lovers……

Your Top Five Songs to get you through life?
1) Roll, Alabama, Roll (The X Seamen’s Institute) 2) The Euphonious Whale (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks) 3) I’m a Ding Dong Daddy (Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys) 4) Melting Pot (Booker T. and the M.G.s) 5) I’m a Ram (Al Green)

Your Top Five Haunts in Portland
1) An Xuyen for amazing pastries and bread 2) Foster Burger for vegetarian burgers with pickled beets 3) El Nutri Taco (oh, man, I get hungry just writing that name) 4) Portland Fruit Company for all my pickling and canning needs 5) Let’s Brew for grains and hops and yeast

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One Response to Meet Your Neighbors: Jeff Ong of Chowswap

  1. jinxmap says:


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