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Make National Agriculture Week a Family Affair

Oregonians encouraged to find ways to celebrate the bounty of the state’s agriculture

Oregonians are asked to give thanks to more than 35,000 farmers, ranchers, and fishers statewide as well as more than two million agricultural operators nationwide as part of National Agriculture Week March 23-29. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is encouraging everyone celebrating this year to involve the whole family.

“Oregonians in general are much more in tune these days with where their food and fiber comes from and genuinely care about agriculture,” says ODA Director Katy Coba. “While everyone can celebrate agriculture year round, National Agriculture Week is an opportunity for families to focus on the unique and amazing facets of Oregon agriculture.”

An ongoing campaign, Celebrate Oregon Agriculture, will help shine a spotlight this year on National Agriculture Week by providing information, recipes, and fun activities tailor-made for families. Targeted messages will be delivered through a variety of multimedia platforms, with an emphasis on television. This year, the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign is sponsored by a partnership between ODA, Food Services of America, NORPAC Foods, Whole Foods Market, and Wilco.

“There are many ways to celebrate National Agriculture Week and honor Oregon agriculture,” says ODA Farm to School Specialist Michelle Ratcliffe, PhD. “We encourage people to find their own way to celebrate and say thanks to our producers.”

It can be as simple as going to the grocery store and looking for Oregon products. Or it can involve taking the family to a winter farmers’ market where the kids just might meet the farmer who produced the crop. As strange as it may seem, another way to celebrate is to watch TV. Viewers of KATU Channel 2 will find segments on the popular morning show, AM Northwest, throughout the year that are part of the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign. There will be special emphasis during National Agriculture Week.

“The show will be featuring a one-minute vignette that highlights a different farmer, fisher, and rancher every single day of National Agriculture Week, while families receive recipes and fun facts,” says Ratcliffe. “We hope viewers will use the recipes and Oregon products in the meals that week.”

The goal is to emphasize products, people, and place.

“Oregon products are well known at home and worldwide for their quality and variety,” says Ratcliffe. “They are available and affordable. The people who grow our food and fiber are innovative, stewards of the land, and have an amazing work ethic. Then there is Oregon, the place where all this happens, with its unique climates and amazing soils that allow our farmers to grow such a wide variety of products envied around the world.”

Of course, a general overview of Oregon agriculture provides a foundation for appreciation:

  • Production value of Oregon agriculture in 2013 topped $5.4 billion, the highest mark ever.
  • Value-added processing contributes up to $2 billion in additional revenue to Oregon's economy.
  • Adding all agriculture-related components– including inputs, production, processing, transportation, warehousing, wholesale trade– accounts for nearly $29 billion in economic activity, or 15 percent of Oregon's gross state product (GSP).
  • More than 98 percent of Oregon's 35,439 farms are family operations– dispelling the notion that agriculture in the state is made up of big corporate farm factories.
  • In terms of jobs, one in every eight Oregonians, or about 12 percent, are engaged in a variety of occupations related to agriculture.
  • Oregon agriculture is a key traded sector, ranking first in volume of exported products and third in value of exported products.

Because National Agriculture Week is being observed in all 50 states, a couple of industry highlights go beyond Oregon's border:

  • One American farmer now supplies food for about 155 people in the US and abroad compared with just under 26 people in 1960.
  • The efficiency of American farmers pays off in the price US consumers pay for food. Americans spend just 6.5 percent of their income on food compared to 9.2 percent in Canada, 14.7 percent in Japan, 27.8 percent in Russia, and 41 percent in Pakistan.

All this adds up to a dynamic, vibrant component of Oregon’s way of life. There is no reason to limit the celebration of agriculture to just one week. Kids, in particular, are more likely now to be exposed to agriculture.

“We now have 500 school gardens throughout the state– that’s about 43 percent of our public schools,” says Ratcliffe. “What that does is give kids a first hand appreciation for how hard it is to grow food and how much you have to know. The experience also connects them to the seasonality of agriculture and cycles. Suddenly, they understand that rain isn’t a bad thing because the plants get watered. Kids thrive when they are connected to people and place. That’s why we are emphasizing Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, and fishers so much during National Agriculture Week.”

The TV vignettes offer an entrée for the week’s activities. But Celebrate Oregon Agriculture also connects people through its web page on KATU. Oregonians can get social with the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

The instructions for the seven-day celebration and beyond are quite clear, according to Ratcliffe.

“Make Celebrate Oregon Agriculture and National Agriculture Week part of your family traditions.”

For more information, contact Michelle Ratcliffe at (503) 709-5360.

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