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The Agriculture Quarterly
Spring 2013
It's time to Celebrate Oregon Agriculture

By Bruce Pokarney

“We’re lucky to live in Oregon, where world class soils and our mild climate grow the world’s greatest food. We’re the mint in your toothpaste, the wheat in your noodles, the meat and seafood on your barbecue, the milk in your fridge, the hops in your beer, and the salad with the strawberries and hazelnuts on top. We are one in 10 jobs in the State of Oregon. We are Oregon agriculture. Ask for it at a grocery store, farmers’ market, or restaurant near you.”

–––Celebrate Oregon Agriculture TV promo on KATU, Portland.

 

It will take a long and sustained series of messages to move the needle when it comes to increasing the purchase, preparation, and consumption of healthy, locally produced food. But after a successful first six months, the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign is gathering support and momentum as it reaches out to Oregonians in a variety of multimedia platforms. The partnership responsible for creating and implementing the campaign is excited for what is happening in 2013.

“This campaign hits a target market that we are looking for– people not necessarily familiar with all that goes into Oregon agriculture but who cherish local foods,” says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “To be able to highlight Oregon agriculture and talk about what it means to the state’s economy is very important.” 

Coba is lending her voice and face to the campaign as a lead spokesperson in television ads aired on Portland’s KATU Channel 2 since last summer. Her tag line, “We’re Oregon agriculture, ask for it at your grocery store, farmers' market, or restaurant,” captures the campaign’s ultimate goal.

Momentum generated by the campaign is attracting other voices along the way.

 

Birth of a campaign

Four years ago, ODA asked school food buyers around the state what they needed in order to purchase more Oregon agricultural products. One of the top answers was somewhat surprising– they needed more tools to promote agriculture and provide education about it. In partnership with the Oregon Department of Education, ODA helped launch the Oregon Harvest for Schools Program, which focuses on locally-grown food that is offered in school lunches. But that wasn’t enough. Kids needed to have more positive experiences with food. As a result, ODA began fully supporting programs and activities such as FoodCorps and school gardens while encouraging specialty crop grant projects that supplemented these efforts. In particular, Oregon is one of 10 states to participate in FoodCorps– a national service program that places young adults in high-need communities to connect kids with healthy food.

“We weren’t sure that was enough,” says ODA Farm to School Program Manager Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe. “Kids were getting it at school, but were not necessarily getting it at home and when they were out in the community. What we really needed to do was change social norms and culture around food. So what could ODA and others do about it? How about a campaign?”

Aimed primarily at parents and caregivers of school-aged children, Celebrate Oregon Agriculture uses TV, print, and online resources to reach the audience. Start-up money came from USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered in Oregon by ODA. The Agri-Business Council of Oregon and the Oregon Dairy Council/Oregon Dairy Products Commission also helped the campaign get off the ground financially. KATU has been a major vehicle for delivering the messages along with ediblePortland– both its website and the magazine published by Ecotrust. A variety of partners have joined along the way.

“We wanted to kick it off and we were hoping others would see value in it,” says Coba. “That’s exactly what has happened. From producer groups to processors to grocery stores, a variety of groups have signed on and are supporting the campaign. I’m thrilled that we are getting to this point.”

 

Lights, camera, action

At the heart of the campaign are four marketing objectives:

  • Elevate awareness of, attitudes about, and utilization of, Oregon’s agriculture products.
  • Educate the public about the availability and affordability of local agriculture products.
  • Help parents and caregivers of school-aged children understand the connection between healthy food choices and the overall health and well being of their children.
  • Motivate parents and caregivers, and provide them the knowledge and skills needed to have their children participate in growing, harvesting, cooking, and serving Oregon’s agriculture products.

Perhaps the most visible components of the campaign have been found on KATU Channel 2. Between June and December last year, in addition to the campaign commercials featuring Director Coba, five television segments were produced on location and two in studio. Each four-minute segment aired on the popular morning talk show AM Northwest. The informative segments covered such topics as U-pick farms, fall and winter gardening with kids, healthy snacks for kids, and frozen holiday treats. ODA’s Ratcliffe continues to be regularly featured in these segments.

“In a short six months, we were able to feature more than 47 great Oregon agricultural products,” says Ratcliffe. “We featured the different forms in which products are offered– whether they are fresh, dried, canned, or frozen– we talked about how they can be prepared, and we talked about where viewers could find those products. We were also excited to highlight the producers and processors of these great products.”

The Portland television market is the 22nd largest in the nation. The Celebrate Oregon Agriculture TV segments potentially reach 88 percent of the nearly 1.2 million households in the market. AM Northwest is one of Portland’s most watched local morning programs.

“The campaign has gained some traction with our viewers over the first six months,” says KATU account executive Erick Garman. “As well as watching the segments, our viewers are recognizing the commercials.”

KATU is committed to continuing the campaign this year and perhaps beyond. A special salute to National Agriculture Week last month helped to reinforce many of the basic messages.

 

Team agriculture

On the print side, ediblePortland ran full-page ads for the campaign in its summer and fall issues. Online presence is an important component that best allows Oregonians to seek out more information and additional resources. AM Northwest and ediblePortland websites promote the campaign and also link to all the TV segments, which can be viewed online as well.

“I’m really pleased with the first year of the campaign,” says Ericka Carlson, who was instrumental in launching the campaign as Publisher of ediblePortland. “It is really focusing on the key messages we want people to know about– the bounty of agriculture in our state, what it means for Oregonians to support local growers, and the message of agriculture’s importance to the economy. I find that very powerful. People don’t always connect the dots when it comes to agriculture and this campaign has allowed them to connect the dots.”

Messaging through a broad campaign like Celebrate Oregon Agriculture requires a long time effort in order to effect positive change. It also needs support from as much of the agriculture community as possible.

“One of the pieces of the campaign I’m most excited about is the formation of partnerships,” says Carlson. “Some significant players have agreed to work together a form a strong team. I come from a marketing background and I’ve always enjoyed bringing together various players who might not always sit at the table together in order to tell these great stories. This campaign includes private companies, public organizations, and government agencies all working together to move the needle in a way that none can do alone. It’s exciting.”

Many of the roots of Celebrate Oregon Agriculture are with the Farm to School Program. That makes perfect sense to ODA Marketing Director Gary Roth.

“There are several components to a sound farm to school program. One is literally just getting the Oregon products from the farm into the schools for the kids to eat. That, in turn, improves health and nutrition. Also, farm to school, by its very name, is about getting the farm itself into the school, helping the students understand about the food and the farms that grow it. The Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign really builds on these components but actually has its roots going back 30 years or more. We’ve all heard the industry say for several decades, we need to tell our story. The campaign tells the story of Oregon agriculture. It tells the viewers– the parents of the farm to school students– what the food is, where it’s grown, how it’s grown, and how it can be prepared. The campaign gives an inside look at the people who grow it, and also makes people aware of the fact that great Oregon food is not just always fresh. It’s available in your freezer case, it’s canned, it’s prepared. Farm to school is about connecting the cafeteria, classroom, and community. Celebrate Oregon Agriculture is one avenue for telling ag’s story.”

The campaign has something for every member of the family. In fact, that’s the only way it can truly be effective. Through such efforts as farm to school and school gardens, youngsters are educated about agriculture, but may not be getting that same education at home. That’s where the campaign fits.

“Laying the groundwork for the campaign, we have worked to develop messages that influence consumer behavior so that parents are buying it, kids are trying it,” says Ratcliffe. “As often as possible, we want to make these messages consistent with those being delivered by other producer groups and commodity commissions. Oregon State University staff at the Food Innovation Center in Portland also plays an instrumental role by helping test evidence-based messages that are used in the campaign.”

Meanwhile, ODA continues to explore new partnerships for expanding the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign. A major processor, Norpac Foods, and a well-known retailer, Whole Foods Market, are the latest to sign on. They join ODA as part of the team that will take things to the next level by funding the entire 2013 campaign, and perhaps beyond.

“NORPAC is delighted to support the “Celebrate Oregon Agriculture” campaign," says Chuck Palmquist, Vice President of Sales Services. "Although our 240 farmer-owners in the Willamette Valley are best known for their vegetable crops, they are actively involved in other parts of the Oregon agricultural scene including nursery crops, grass seed, wheat, wine grapes, mint, and a wide variety of other crops. NORPAC is proud to support all facets of Oregon agriculture."

“Whole Foods Market is deeply invested in the communities we serve, and this partnership with ODA is a natural extension of that commitment," says Susan Livingston, Whole Foods' regional marketing director. "We have deep, happy relationships with many producers in Oregon and want to work with partners, like ODA, that help give those products and producers a unique presence in the local, regional and national markets.”

ODA's Ratcliffe says she is optimistic the promotional campaign will have a major impact over time.

“Maybe someday, Oregonians will be saying, Oregon agriculture, why buy food from anywhere else?”

 














 
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Board of Agriculture: State of the Industry Report

The State Board of Agriculture has completed one of its primary biennial tasks and is ready to share the results with Oregon’s governor and legislature. The 2013 Oregon State of the Agriculture Industry Report is now published, complete with a snapshot of Oregon agriculture’s competitiveness, challenges, and opportunities. The 55-page document– also available online– provides lawmakers with priority policy recommendations as determined by the 10-member board.

“The reason we put this report together is to primarily educate our legislators on what is important to agriculture,” says Board of Agriculture Chair Doug Krahmer. “In some cases, the report reviews good things that have been done and in other cases, we are bringing up some things that potentially might not be so good.”

The 2005 Oregon Legislature passed HB 2196, requiring the State Board of Agriculture to prepare biennial reports to the governor and legislative assembly regarding the status of the agriculture industry. The document gives an overview of many topics and issues related to, impacting, and affected by agriculture. The report features 10 key issues critical to the competitiveness of Oregon’s agricultural producers and processors: water quantity, transportation, food processing, labor, energy, taxes, soil and water quality, land use, local foods and small farms, and food safety. Each section draws comparisons between Oregon and its neighboring states of Washington, Idaho, and California.

Speaking in one voice, the board states, “this report should help the reader understand where Oregon is competitive, and where it is not; what things are going well, and where challenges exist; and what the legislature, governor, congressional representatives, and Oregon’s citizens can do to help.”

The board’s report is an honest, unvarnished look that avoids sugar coating the outlook for Oregon agriculture. Nonetheless, there is a lot to feel good about after reading the report, according to Krahmer.

“This is one of the more important activities undertaken by the board. When it comes to the legislative arena and getting help to solve the industry’s problems, this report is what we rely on to inform our legislators what is needed.”

The report’s executive summary succinctly boils it down to a good news, bad news declaration. “The bad news: Oregon agriculture lags behind our three neighboring states in many key areas. The good news: Oregon policymakers can take positive actions to help us catch up.”

The report's executive summary outlines 10 priority policy recommendations:

  • Ensure access to irrigation water (statewide).
  • Expand markets and increase sales locally, regionally, and internationally.
  • Support truck transportation, but begin to maximize rail, barging and other water modes to move product to market more efficiently.
  • Provide relief from the high cost of inputs, including taxes, energy, and labor.
  • Encourage management of natural resources in a way that enables farming while protecting water, soil, air, habitat, and endangered species.
  • Support a land use system that protects farmland for farm use.
  • Support a high quality research, experiment and extension service that enables growers to diversify cropping and capitalize on unique geographic micro-climates and soils, and to remain competitive in a world market.
  • Offer assistance for food processors—as key markets for growers—with technical and financial help to address wastewater permits that incorporate recycled, reclaimed, or reused water methods and technologies.
  • Help growers meet new food safety standards that are becoming more stringent and costly.
  • Help young or new farmers and transitional family farmers successfully become the next generation of aspiring producers.

The report from the Board of Agriculture is designed to not just sit on a shelf and gather dust. Board members are confident it can foster a better understanding and appreciation of Oregon agriculture, and a chance for all Oregonians to join together to address key issues.

An online version of the report can be found at http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/pages/pub_bd_rpt.aspx​.

 
Director's Column

Last summer, I delivered a call to action for Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, and other landowners to pay
attention to water quality issues. ODA’s Agricultural Water Quality Management Program was beginning to consider potential changes in how it operates. We wanted to know if an alternative to the predominantly complaint-based program could be developed that would provide a more strategic and effective compliance effort. We asked landowners for input. We involved the State Board of Agriculture for guidance. We enlisted the help of traditional partners like the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), the Soil and Water Conservation Commission (SWCC) and individual soil and water conservation districts.

This spring, I can tell you that changes are in the works. They can be summed up in two words– “strategic implementation.”

Those words should be encouraging, not intimidating. The old process of responding to water quality complaints may have been effective during its time, but the issues have evolved and so must the program. Our Agricultural Water Quality Management Program has an opportunity to improve its effectiveness by being strategic. A resolution recently passed by the Board of Agriculture supports a “full suite of tools necessary to pursue the state’s water quality goals that includes continuing complaint-based inspections, undertaking agency-initiated site inspections, and focusing strategic implementation in small geographic areas.”

In the days ahead, ODA will establish and pilot a strategic implementation process that prioritizes and focuses resources to achieve compliance with locally-established water quality rules. Two specific geographic areas with a history of water quality problems have been selected as “test runs.” East of the Cascades, Mill Creek in Wasco County has been chosen. On the west side, Clackamas County’s North Fork Deep Creek will also be a test run. In both locations, ODA’s compliance authority will supplement the work of the SWCDs, who will provide landowner outreach and technical assistance.

One of the areas of ODA’s program in need of improvement is monitoring. We believe that all the efforts over the years to achieve water quality goals have resulted in better conditions. However, documentation of those changes is lacking. Under the new strategic implementation process, a pre-assessment of the watershed will take place followed by vigorous outreach to landowners in an attempt to address the highest priority concerns. Post-assessments will also be conducted to document changes in streamside conditions with the hope that pollution from agricultural activities is prevented and controlled. Landowners will be provided with the necessary tools to improve shade, stabilize streambanks, and control erosion to achieve compliance. Whether providing technical assistance or financial incentive, our aim is to strategically make a difference and then be able to show it.

We expect success from these two test runs. In time, additional strategic implementation areas will be identified.

These efforts are not to suggest that the Agricultural Water Quality Management Program needed drastic change. It is more a case of the program maturing and the need to provide meaningful and measurable outcomes. We believe strategic implementation will get us there, the Board of Agriculture believes it, and so do the partnering soil and water conservation groups who have agreed to step up and play a larger role.

There is one aspect to our program that will not change. ODA still promotes voluntary cooperation among landowners to address water quality and landscape issues. ODA will pursue regulatory action when necessary, but we recognize that a lot of good things have happened voluntarily, especially when partners like our SWCDs and other natural resource entities are willing and able to help landowners.

By focusing our resources and efforts strategically, we can better show program effectiveness. The foundation of our program is collaboration, sort of a clean water partnership within agriculture. Every farmer, rancher, and agricultural landowner is part of a team that I expect will be victorious in demonstrating water quality improvement.

 

 
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ODA inspection provides snapshot of Oregon ag exports

It may not be the final word on where Oregon agricultural commodities are being exported, but phytosanitary certificates written by inspectors with the Oregon Department of Agriculture give a good idea of the state's top export markets and what is being sent to those markets. Data from 2012 confirms Asia as a major destination for Oregon agricultural products, but US neighbors Mexico and Canada remain key export markets for a number of crops grown in Oregon.

"We don't look at everything that is exported from Oregon and not everything requires a phytosanitary certificate, but we do inspect nearly all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, and many other major agricultural commodities such as Christmas trees, nursery stock, and grass seed," says Jim Cramer, director of ODA’s Market Access and Certification Program Area. "These statistics are consistent with what we see from other available export numbers."

ODA inspectors examine a variety of field crops before issuing phytosanitary certificates that assure the commodity is clean of pests and diseases. Without the piece of paper with ODA's stamp of approval, there is no guarantee the commodity meets the export country's standards. The importance of timely inspection and certification is even more critical for highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables.

“When you look at the amount of product that leaves Oregon destined for international markets and the fact that much of it has to travel with that certificate, it’s easy to see that ODA’s role is critical to helping Oregon agriculture be successful,” says Cramer.

About 40 percent of what is produced by Oregon agriculture heads to other countries. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, total annual exports for Oregon agricultural commodities the past three years has averaged about $1.6 billion. In 2012, ODA inspectors– ranging from those working at various shipping point district office to Christmas tree inspectors– issued phytosanitary certificates enabling more than 2.3 billion pounds of fresh product to be shipped to other countries. The value of just the top 10 exported commodities alone exceeded $270 million last year. Based on that figure, combined with the value of other commodities, ODA’s service of inspection and certification is responsible for an estimated 17 percent of the state’s agricultural exports.

Again, it is important to emphasize that many exported Oregon-grown crops do not require phytosanitary certificates. Some commodities may need one for certain countries of destination, but not others. ODA’s numbers are not intended to give the full export picture, especially since they don’t include processed agricultural goods. However, the statistics show some interesting trends.

“It’s no secret that Asia is a major market for us,” says Cramer. “Mexico and Canada remain very important, but the growth in those countries isn’t nearly as significant as what we see in Asia. In fact, more than half of the world’s population lives within a five hour plane ride from Hong Kong.”

A general estimation of Oregon’s top six export markets based on ODA data shows the Asian influence: (ranking based on 2012 farmgate value of products exported from Oregon to that country)

  • Hong Kong, $44.0 million
  • Mexico, $33.7 million
  • Japan, $28.9 million
  • South Korea, $27.8 million
  • China, $25.6 million
  • Canada, $14.6 million

Perched on top, Hong Kong is a unique market in that it acts as a gatekeeper of Oregon agricultural products to China and Southeast Asia. Hong Kong is not the ultimate consumer. The biggest impact on Hong Kong comes from Oregon hazelnuts, responsible for more than $43 million of last year’s total. Mexico receives a variety of commodities from Oregon, but gets a boost from being the state’s top customer for Christmas trees. Japan and South Korea remain steady export partners for Oregon. China is the fastest growing market for Oregon and no doubt receives product through Hong Kong, which is not reflected in ODA’s numbers. Canada’s standing would be higher, but ODA’s statistics don’t take into account the large volume of nursery products that are sent north or the relaxation of trade between the US and its neighbor, eliminating the need for phytosanitary certificates. Among the next group, Vietnam is emerging as a major export market and is expected to expand.

The top six Oregon export commodities requiring a phytosanitary certificate from ODA, based on farmgate value in 2012, is as follows:

  • Grass seed, $69.5 million
  • Hazelnuts, $67.2 million
  • Grass straw and hay, $42.6 million
  • Pears, $30.9 million
  • Cherries, $21.3 million
  • Christmas trees, $13.6 million

China remains a major importer of Oregon grass seed, a crop that has rebounded from global recession. Hazelnuts, with a good price last year, remains near the top of the list. Grass straw and hay continues to provide forage for Asian countries. The straw is a good example of turning what was once considered a waste product in the field into something of value. Pears and cherries are two fresh fruits that find their way into a number of export markets. In particular, Oregon pears are popular in South America. Following the top six are high-volume staples such as potatoes and onions, along with the fastest growing of Oregon commodities– blueberries.

The snapshot of export activity provided by ODA phytosanitary certificates shows an active process that requires the work of ODA inspectors, who last year were responsible for about 2.3 billion pounds of product making it to the international marketplace.

 
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Oregon ​fruit growers talk about ag labor

It takes skill and experience to be a farmworker. This was one of the clearest messages that came through as a panel of Oregon farmers discussed labor issues and opportunities as part of the 10th annual Latino Small Business Conference on February 9 in Salem, Oregon.

“Professional farmworkers are skilled, athletic, and extremely hardworking,” explained Mike McCarthy of Trout Creek Orchards in Hood River as he showed some slides of farmworkers picking pears in his orchard. “There’s a perception that farm work doesn’t involve specialized skills, but that’s just not true. I’ve had inexperienced people come in and they won’t even last half a day.”

The panel, which included McCarthy, Doug Krahmer from Berries Northwest, and Stan Danskey with E&S Farms, spoke to conference participants who were looking for employment opportunities as well as interested in starting their own farms. ODA collaborated with WorkSource Oregon to organize the panel as part of an effort to reach out to agricultural employers about WorkSource services.

Finding enough qualified farmworkers is an ongoing priority for Oregon’s specialty crop industries. Many of Oregon’s signature crops, including berries, pears, nursery crops, dairy, and Christmas trees, depend on an adequate skilled farmworker supply for production and harvest. Labor continues to be the top expense for Oregon farms; in fact, Oregon’s farmers paid more in 2011 for labor than they netted in income. According to the USDA, labor can represent as much as 40 percent of the costs of labor-intensive crops.

Panelists discussed their strategies for finding and hiring employees, training them, and ensuring safety.

Both Krahmer, a blueberry farmer, and Danskey, who produces wine grapes and strawberries as well as blueberries, reported that they have been able to find enough skilled labor for their farming operations in the Willamette Valley. Both emphasized the importance of relationships with farmworkers in California.

“I’ve become a labor contractor to help keep my work force employed throughout the season,” explains Danskey. “Our crews do harvesting work on other farms as well as in our own fields. We also grow varieties that produce at different times during the season to provide steady work and keep our workers around.”

Krahmer reported that finding skilled labor for his blueberry field in Clatskanie has been more challenging. “We don’t provide on-farm housing, and there aren’t a lot of housing options in the area,” he explains.

McCarthy was not able to find enough workers in 2012 for the pear harvest, despite searching all over the West Coast. He provides on-farm housing for farmworkers, as do many orchardists in the Hood River Valley. “We could really use the state’s help to navigate through the H-2A program,” he explained. “I started on the paperwork in April 2012, and as of October 2012 the process was still not completed.”

McCarthy showed several slides of farmworkers at his orchard to demonstrate the level of skill involved with picking pears. “We have full-sized trees at our orchard. Workers have to climb up and down ladders carrying 50-pound buckets of pears. If you try to start a new person out on a ladder picking pears, people get hurt. We try to start new employees during the pruning season, so they get comfortable going up and down a ladder well before harvesting season.”

Krahmer says he puts new workers on a training crew for a period of time from a few hours to a few days to evaluate their skills in harvesting blueberries and ensure they receive training on how to harvest the crops. Both Danskey and Krahmer echoed McCarthy’s comments about the skill involved in harvesting agricultural crops. “We grow blueberries for the fresh market, and it’s critical that the blueberries are harvested in the window that they are ripe,” said Danskey.

In addition, each of the panelists provides health and safety training to their workers to ensure, for example, that they do not re-enter fields where pesticide has been applied before the exclusion period required by law. “We provide most of our training by video,” explains Krahmer.

The panelists described certifications and federal laws that make crop harvesting even more technical for their workers. “We’ve been certified for some time for Good Agricultural Practices,” says Doug Krahmer. The certification involves a variety of growing and harvesting practices designed to minimize the risk of food safety concerns. Rules proposed to implement the federal Food Safety Modernization Act will mean more training to ensure food safety.

Each of the panelists explained that they pay piece rate, which allows skilled workers to make above minimum wage. “We have to pay minimum wage, regardless of how much a worker picks,” explained Danskey. “If we get unskilled workers who cannot pick enough to earn above minimum wage per hour by piece rate, we still have to pay them minimum wage but we lose money.”

“We want skilled pickers because our workers can make money, we can make money, and we are both happy,” explained Doug Krahmer.

As another growing and harvesting season approaches, maintaining relationships built with skilled farmworkers will continue to be a valuable strategy to ensure an adequate labor force. WorkSource Oregon is also available throughout the state as a resource for agricultural employers to recruit for skilled farmworkers.

 

Labor-related resources for farmers

Find your nearest WorkSource Oregon Center at www.WorkSourceOregon.org.

For additional information on agricultural programs at WorkSource Oregon contact:

Fernando Gutierrez, State Monitor Advocate
503-947-1966—Fernando.Gutierrez@state.or.us 

Dan Quinones, Agriculture Representative
503-378-8572—Daniel.J.Quinones@state.or.us

A summary of agricultural employment regulations is available in the Oregon Agripedia at http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/pages/pub_regs_emp.aspx

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Specialty crop funds help the next generation of farmers

The Oregon farmer is aging. One of the biggest challenges facing agriculture is making sure there is a next generation of farmers and ranchers to carry on. Whether it’s passing the operation down to a son or daughter, or making it easier for a beginning farmer to get started, help is needed. The Oregon Department of Agriculture recognizes the challenges and is capitalizing on opportunities to address the graying of Oregon’s ag producers.

“That’s why ODA and an industry advisory group are using the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to specifically fund projects that invest in educational opportunities in our rural communities to equip the next generation of farmers and keep Oregon agriculture competitive,” says Gary Roth, ODA’s marketing director. “Specifically, the program is funding three local efforts to kick start new entries into agricultural production.”

The next generation of farmers and value-added producers in Central Oregon are learning how to expand direct market sales, increase product diversification, and educate consumers on the importance of buying their products. The Wy’East Resource Conservation and Development Area Council, which services six counties, received a $43,000 grant last year to provide farm management workshops to specialty crop farmers and producers, focusing on such critical business elements as marketing, production, and fiscal operations. Among the Wy’East partners are the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), OSU Extension, and the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District

“Central Oregon is a region rich in agricultural production,“ says COIC’s Katrina Van Dis. “Given the geographical isolation from main market centers, and the limited growing season, our producers face different challenges than the rest of the state. Once based on commercial crop production, new and existing farmers are shifting to smaller acreage farms focused on specialty crop production. As these farms blossom, so too does the demand for local, fresh, healthy food. The next generation of farmers is eager to grow food and feed the community. In order to provide for the needs of both producers and consumers, direct market access and consumer education is essential.”

A one-day conference titled “Living On a Few Acres” provided a variety of classes on field management, growing specialty crops, animal health and nutrition, and other topics of interest to small and beginning farmers. A food summit conference scheduled for November will help producers identify more opportunities and continue networking. A “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign already underway is creating consumer awareness of products offered by Central Oregon farmers.

In Southern Oregon, Oregon State University Extension’s Small Farms Program has received a $39,000 grant for phase two of its program, “Growing Agripreneurs: Training the Next Generation of Farmers.” Again, education and hands-on training provides vital support to beginning specialty crop growers while increasing the number of successful farms in Southern Oregon.

Phase two expands the training already being done by developing business and marketing modules. The success of this project could benefit the next generation of farmers across Oregon. Plans include the creation of a curriculum, a teachers’ manual, and a toolkit to help replicate the Growing Agripreneurs Program around the state.

“People who are interested in learning how to farm but have day jobs, families, or both are perfect candidates for our program,” says OSU Extension Agent Maud Powell. “Aspiring farmers who are able to devote all their time to learning might choose an apprenticeship. The Growing Agripreneurs Program takes students through an entire growing season on our Franklin Teaching Farm at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, but with a minimal weekly commitment of three hours. During those three hours a week, students either work on the farm alongside a mentor, engage in a skill-building session, take a class on some aspect of production, or visit a working farm.”

Working with Rogue Farm Corps (RFC), OSU provides the classroom-based learning while RFC showcases successful farm operations and their practices. The grant funds help incorporate a marketing and distribution component to the program. The goal is to provide 54 aspiring farmers with a comprehensive education in small farm production and marketing with as many as 15 new farm businesses established in the region.

“Aluna Michelle is a graduate of Growing Farms who is now running Happy Dirt veggie patch in Southern Oregon,” says Powell. “Aluna gained the skills and confidence through Growing Agripreneurs to run her own operation. Other participants are also in the process of starting their own farms.”

Oregon Rural Action received a $68,000 specialty crop grant for its project, “Growing Markets and the Next Generation of Farmers in Eastern Oregon.” At the heart of this project is creating markets for locally produced food. Since the lack of population centers in Eastern Oregon makes it difficult to sell great quantities in the local area, the project wants to develop more efficient ways to market and transport specialty crops to metro areas in Portland and Boise.

Key activities from this project– such as marketing and development training, supply chain research training, a consumer education campaign, and the development of a local farmers network– will enable farmers to sell direct to the consumers within Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties. These activities potentially have the long-term impact of establishing a more financially sustainable and diversified agriculture by opening new markets, identifying new buyers, and creating new demand.

There is also a focus on the younger generation.

“We are excited to be able to work with ORA reaching out to youth with our business education resources. Agriculture has the potential to provide many small business opportunities in our region and we want to help younger people take advantage of those opportunities,” says Northeast Economic Development District specialist Sara Miller, herself a first generation rancher in Wallowa County. "Our hope is that one of the markets youth can access is their own school cafeterias through farm to school programs. If they can leave high school with a growing specialty crop business, they will be more likely to stay in agriculture, stay in Eastern Oregon, and build our local economy."

A major objective is to improve access in Eastern Oregon to OSU’s Small Farms Program. Specific business training classes target specialty crop businesses in Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties. The development of a specialty crop farm intern program will help train that next generation and keep local farms in business.

Specialty crop block grant funds are being used to supplement existing efforts in these three regions of Oregon. ODA welcomes any project which connects farmers to consumers by expanding direct marketing opportunities; enhancing Oregon's specialty crops, production practices, farmers, and growing locations; and investing in the future of our next generation of farmers.


 
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2013 Ag Progress Award winners

Oregon agriculture gave a salute to industry leaders this spring at the 21st annual Agricultural Progress Awards Dinner held in Salem. The event, hosted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, celebrates progress in agriculture made through partnerships between business, higher education, and state government.

ODA Director Katy Coba presented awards in recognition of innovation and leadership in the following areas:

 

Oregon Product Retailer of the Year: Fred Meyer Stores, for their strong support, promotion, and successful marketing of locally-grown Oregon food products.



 

 

 




Chef of the Year: Gregory Gourdet, Executive Chef at Departure Restaurant and Lounge in Portland, for his efforts to promote Oregon agriculture and seafood, by preparing and offering locally produced foods.

 

 





 

Cooperator of the Year: The Oregon Association of Conservation Districts and its executive director, Jerry Nicolescu, for commitment to conservation and working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to support its Agricultural Water Quality Program.

 

 

 




Excellence in Conservation: The WISE Project of Jackson County (Water for Irrigation, Stream, and Economy), for its innovative and collaborative water management project to improve the health of local watersheds.

 

 

 



 

 

Individual Contributions to Agriculture: Verne Gingerich of Canby, for his many years of leadership, promotion, and marketing efforts that have benefitted Oregon’s blueberry industry; and, Connie Kirby of Portland, for her efforts with the Northwest Food Processors Association to help the industry sector address food safety and other key issues.

 
 
ODA Employees of the Year:

Kathy LeaMaster, publications and web coordinator and Patrick Mayer, trade manager

 
 
 
 
 Click here​ to see videos of the award recipients.


 

Announcements

CAFO Advisory Committee meeting

Date April 11, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.

Location Salem Ag Headquarters, Salem, Oregon

Website http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/NRD/Pages/cafo_front.aspx#Committee_meetings_notice

 

Oregon Dairy Products Commission planning retreat

Date April 24-25, 2013

Location Maupin, OR

 

Oregon Ag Fest

Oregon Ag Fest is an activity-filled festival where kids (and grown ups too!) can touch, taste and experience life on the farm.

Date April 27-28, 2013

Location Oregon State Fairgrounds

Website http://www.oragfest.com

 

Vintage Oregon—75 wineries and 25 restaurants

Date April 28, 2013, 3-6 pm

Location Left Bank Annex, Portland, Oregon

 

Oregon Cattlemen's Association Centennial Celebration

Date June 20-22, 2013

Location Baker City, Oregon

Website http://www.orcattle.com/​

 

Oregon Beef Council meeting

Date June 21, 2013

Location Baker City, Oregon

 

Oregon Invasive Species Council

Date July 9-10, 2013

Location Coos Bay, Location TBA

Website http://oregon.gov/OISC


Oregon Berry Festival

Date July 12-13, 2013

Location EcoTrust Building, Portland, Oregon

Website http://www.oregonberryfestival.com

 

5th Annual Friends of Oregon Agriculture Golf Tournament

Date August 9, 2013

Website http://www.aglink.org

 

Check out all the ODA public meetings

More info: http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/meetings.aspx​


 
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Print version
Click here​ to download the pdf of this issue.

 
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