Department of Agriculture, Issue 373, Spring 2009,
finds a bigger stage
Census of Agriculture gives snapshot of Oregon farms
Food safety workshop focus on farmers' markets
Oregon agriculture takes advantage of conservation
Oregon Farm & Ranch Sesquicentennial Award
Grant program helps nursery improve energy efficiency
ODA honors dairy operators for outreach and education
publications now available
Alternative file formats
"Here is the county ranking for 2008 gross farm and
- Marion County, $604 million
- Umatilla County, $379 million
- Morrow County, $371 million
- Clackamas County, $364 million
- Washington County, $302 million
- Klamath County, $301 million
- Linn County, $296 million
- Yamhill County, $284 million
- Malheur County, $276 million
- Polk County, $164 million"
finds a bigger stage
By Bruce Pokarney
The big food retailers used to be outside the reach of
local growers. Many producers in Oregon were confined
to farmers' markets, smaller grocery stores, or even
their own farm stands. Times are changing. Consumers
now show a preference for locally grown and the larger
retailers now show a desire to cut down on
transportation costs as they source the food offered
for sale. Linking the two is Oregon's ability to grow
and supply what's on the food wish list.
"From what it can produce to how it can be marketed,
Oregon enjoys a rich tapestry of agriculture," says
Dalton Hobbs, assistant director with the Oregon
Department of Agriculture. "From farmers' markets to
major retailers like Wal-Mart, our products can
compete in so many sectors. That's a testament to the
strength of Oregon agriculture."
Evolution and revolution
In the late 1980s, rising concerns about pesticide
residues on food set off a chain reaction of attitude
changes shaping the consciousness of the US consumer.
Within a few years, health and diet became important
factors in food purchases. In the last several years,
that has evolved into increased consumer preference
for organic and sustainable food. Today, the target
has moved again as some consumers equate food that is
good for you with food that is grown nearby.
In fact, a new consumer survey on local shopping,
conducted by the consumer research firm Mintel, shows
one in six adults buy local products as often as
possible and are willing to pay a higher price. The
same survey identified 30 percent of the respondents
who say they would purchase local foods if they knew
where to find them.
"More consumers are choosing based on a preference for
local food more than any other kind of identifier,
including brand," says Hobbs. "Price is still a
primary concern for a majority of consumers. But for
10 to 15 percent of those making food purchases, the
price is secondary. These are shoppers that consider
locally grown more important."
A number of food movements have become established in
the past decade. This revolution of food-oriented
interests values products that are connected to a real
farmer or rancher. That person is often used to
merchandise and showcase the product. Whether it's
based on reality or perception, knowing where the food
comes from and who produces it provides greater
assurance that the food is grown with care, is better
tasting, and is safer than food grown outside of the
The meteoric growth of farmers' markets in Oregon
offers more evidence of the public's interest in local
foods. In 1988, there were just 10 farmers' markets
around the state. Now, there are more than 90. Going
to a farmers' market has become just as much a social
event as a food buying experience.
"There has been a hunger by consumers to reach out to
where the food is coming from and connect a face to
the source," says ODA trade manager Laura Barton.
"This has led to more trust in the local grower. At
the same time, traditional retailers have taken
Barton says retailers saw their produce sales go down
during the summer months as farmers' markets stayed
busy. The impact on the bottom line opened their eyes
to the buzz about local foods. As more customers asked
the traditional grocery chains for locally grown
produce, retailers saw an opportunity.
Meanwhile, the grocery sector began consolidating in
the 1990s. Many of the independent grocers, such as
Thriftway, IGA, and Roth's, couldn't compete on price
any longer because of the buying strategies employed
by the large retailers. That left a couple of ways to
distinguish themselves while remaining
competitive-service and local foods.
Some of these independent retailers chose the local
food option-with vigor.
Grow it locally and they will come
The launch of New Seasons Market in 1999 proved that
offering local foods could be economically viable in a
retail store setting. The relative economic prosperity
at the time created a consumer with established buying
habits that includes locally-grown. That group of
purchasers has remained loyal despite the dot-com
crash, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and the current
To New Seasons, there is no mystery to why the buy
local trend is taking place.
"I think that a growing awareness of people wanting to
know where their food comes from and how it is grown
is driving the trend," says New Seasons President Lisa
Sedlar. "When the safety of the food we're feeding our
families is called into question, as we saw with the
recent peanut recalls, it clarifies the fact that we
need to take responsibility for knowing the life
history of our food. Stores will sell what customers
want to buy, and customers vote with their dollars.
Another reason buying local is a growing trend has to
do with practicality. The price of transporting our
food from all over the nation and the world has never
been higher, so now it's making economic sense to buy
local. Local food also means fresher, better tasting
food, and since local producers tend to be smaller
family farms that are more likely to use sustainable
food production methods, the overall carbon footprint
is reduced. As more and more people learn the benefits
of buying local, the demand will continue to increase,
and the long-term benefit is the preservation of our
farmland for generations to come."
New Seasons' mantra is "the closer the better." Sedlar
says the company has employees whose specific job is
to cultivate and maintain relationships with local
farmers and ranchers. Those relationships have allowed
New Seasons to provide what the customer wants while
giving local producers an important marketing outlet.
It is not unusual now to see local produce highlighted
in Safeway, Albertsons, and Fred Meyer stores. But
when the largest of all major multiple retailers in
the US joins the club, it doesn't seem to be a trend
anymore. It is now a full-fledged strategy for food
Local food for the masses
Oregon produces more agricultural products than it can
consume. In fact, about 80 percent leaves the state.
Export markets will always be vital to the state's
producers. Still, having local outlets is a key
marketing strategy that provides important sale
opportunities for many Oregon farmers and ranchers.
Well-known large retailers and restaurants now tout
their purchases of locally grown food. In 2005,
McDonald's purchases of local produce from Oregon
included more than 320 million pounds of potatoes, 1.5
million pounds of onions, and almost five million
pounds of cucumbers that were processed into pickles.
Those numbers have generally been maintained the past
Last summer, Wal-Mart announced its commitment to
source more local fruits and vegetables to the level
of $400 million nationwide. That will make Wal-Mart
the nation's largest purchaser of local produce.
During the summer months, local fruits and vegetables
will make up a fifth of all produce available in
"At Wal-Mart, we are committed to increasing our
locally grown offerings and the number of local small
farms we work with," says Pam Kohn, senior vice
president and general merchandise manager. "Through
this program, we are able to cut shipping costs and
decrease food miles, but most importantly we are
offering our customers an opportunity to support their
Fresh Oregon blueberries will be the first local
offering in July. Oregon watermelons will be on the
shelf in August and September. Also in the fall will
be significant offerings of Oregon russet potatoes,
onions, pears, and a variety of apples. Signage at the
point of purchase will make it easy for customers to
recognize local products.
Five years ago, it was hard for the Oregon Department
of Agriculture's marketing staff to get phone calls to
Wal-Mart returned. Now, a working relationship has
been established. For its part, ODA put Wal-Mart in
touch with local growers and helped locate an official
state-grown mark as part of the signage. (The products
will be identified by the phrase "Oregon Born"-part of
the Brand Oregon campaign.)
"The fact that Wal-Mart is showing this interest
speaks volumes on how important the local foods
phenomenon really is," says ODA's Hobbs. "Wal-Mart
does nothing if it can't be delivered. They are
extremely savvy and among the best retailers in the
world. Like them or not, Wal-Mart is head and
shoulders above most in terms of understanding the
customer and giving them what they want."
Hobbs says savvy Oregon growers can take advantage of
opportunities to supply the large retailers. But it
may take creative thinking and an understanding of the
complex, dynamic nature of the system. One solution
might be collaboration among growers, forming grower
clusters of a certain food crop or a specific local
geographic area, where resources can be pooled and
freight costs can be consolidated.
Interestingly, the established Oregon retailers who
have been championing locally-grown food from the
beginning don't seem threatened by having the big guys
like Wal-Mart on board. They actually see it as a good
"Larger chains offering local choices draws attention
to the idea of buying local, makes local products
available to a wider audience, and helps support
regional economies," says New Seasons' Sedlar. "The
more retailers who support our local farmers, the more
likely it is that we will keep our farmland in
The crystal ball
In the next few years, Oregon agriculture will evolve
along with a more sophisticated retail sector that
demands an increased local food supply. But it won't
be as simple as having a farmer grow something, take
it to the store, and place it on the shelf. The modern
system of wholesale buying and distribution makes it
difficult for many small-to-mid-size farmers and
ranchers to access the Wal-Marts, Fred Meyers, and
Safeways of the world.
"That's why farmers' markets and farm direct sales are
such an important part of this rich mix of options for
Oregon producers," says Hobbs. "They do not have the
same kind of distribution complexity and constraints
that current retail marketing has."
Still, the convergence of the consumer's interest in
local foods, the retailer's interest in providing more
local products, and the grower's ability to be a
reliable supplier has demonstrated that Oregon
agriculture can compete in several marketing
sectors-even showing up prominently in the largest of
New voucher program provides more access
to fresh local produce
From the small mom-and-pop outlets to the giant
retailers, you can add local grocery stores to the
list of places participating in a supplemental
nutrition program that allows the purchase of fruits
and vegetables by nutritionally-needy pregnant women
and mothers of small children.
Beginning in August, the Oregon Special Supplemental
Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
(WIC) will provide eligible participants with a
monthly cash value voucher ranging from $6 to $10 for
the purchase of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
at any of the hundreds of stores around the state
authorized to sell WIC foods. State officials estimate
the cash value vouchers have the potential to add up
to $600,000 a month for fruit and vegetable purchases.
While the products purchased are not required to be
grown locally, the Oregon Department of Agriculture is
reaching out to retailers and their produce buyers to
see what can be done to highlight local fruits and
"This program can be a launching venue to bring more
attention to the locally grown produce items that a
retailer stocks," says ODA's Laura Barton. "We would
like to help support the stores that carry locally
grown, encourage them to stock more, and encourage
buyers to pick out local products."
The cash value voucher is in addition to the Farm
Direct Nutrition Program (FDNP), which provides $20
per WIC participant per season for fresh produce
purchases at farmers' markets and farm stands. The
cash value voucher program is year around-unlike FDNP-and
is being established through a shifting of WIC funds.
Since the new program runs 12 months a year, local
growers may have more opportunity to connect with
customers on an extended basis than they could through
a farmers' market alone. Also, starting in 2010,
farmers selling directly through their stands or
farmers' markets will have the opportunity to
participate in the new year-round program, in addition
to their seasonal participation in FDNP.
For more information, contact the ODA's Agricultural
Development and Marketing Division at 503-872-6600.
Twelve key issues facing Oregon agriculture highlight
the State Board of Agriculture's second biennial
report of the industry's status as presented to
Governor Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature. Copies
of "The State of Oregon Agriculture" were formally
presented to members of the House Agriculture and
Natural Resources Committee in February by Board of
Agriculture Chair Ken Bailey and Oregon Department of
Agriculture Director Katy Coba. The presentation comes
two years following the inaugural report presented to
the governor and the same legislative committee.
Board of Agriculture Chair Ken Bailey and Director
Rather than providing an all-encompassing,
comprehensive look at Oregon's complex agriculture
industry-the first biennial report from the board
covered 115 pages-the 2009 version narrowed its focus
to the most critical emerging issues that policy
makers need to understand and provided policy
recommendations for consideration. Each board member
authored a section focusing on one of these key
"By asking each board member to tackle an issue where
they had some experience and expertise, it allowed a
more personal account of the impact these challenges
and opportunities present to the agricultural
community," says Board Chair Bailey.
The 12 key issues featured in the report include:
- Sustainability in agriculture
- Protecting crops and animals
- Agricultural labor
- Water and agriculture
- Land use
- Food safety
- Production costs
- Local foods
- Family farm transition
- Climate change
In addition to the issues, the report provides an
industry overview that generally shows a mixed bag of
results in terms of agricultural production, prices,
markets, and other economic factors.
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 full report is available online at
National Agriculture Week, celebrated March 15-21,
gave me another opportunity to reflect on this
wonderful industry I am privileged to be a part of.
The celebration this year happened to coincide with
Oregon's sesquicentennial, marking 150 years of
statehood. Our state's history is intertwined with
agriculture and I thought of the pioneers who came to
Oregon for a better life. They arrived and began to
make use of our natural resources by farming, fishing,
and harvesting timber.
Director Katy Coba
It has been 150 years or more that folks in Oregon
have been raising crops and animals. In fact, we have
150-year old family farms and ranches in our state.
What was true back in 1859 is true in 2009-agriculture
is very much alive and well. Today, the industry is
responsible for about 10 percent of the state's
economy. Today, Oregon farms and ranches are
predominately family-owned and operated. The people of
Oregon agriculture have been, and continue to be, an
integral part of our state's fabric.
Two major themes surfaced during National Agriculture
Week this year-the environment and technology. It's
amazing what Oregon agriculture does for the
environment. Our farmers and ranchers have made huge
strides in understanding potential impacts to the
environment and taking steps to mitigate any adverse
effects. There is a real focus on keeping soil on the
ground and keeping it from running off into streams
and waterways. Farmers and ranchers play a huge role
in providing habitat for wildlife in this state.
Through conservation programs, the public is seeing
more of the environmental benefits that landowners
provide. Our producers deal with invasive species.
Whether it is weeds, insects, or diseases, farmers and
ranchers are very aggressive in dealing with these
invaders on their property to keep them from becoming
established in Oregon.
Research and technology have allowed agriculture the
ability to continue providing a world food supply. The
US still produces more than it consumes and feeds
populations throughout the world. Locally, Oregon
produces more than Oregonians can consume. We ship our
product regionally, to the rest of the US, and
overseas. It truly is technology that allows us to do
that. Production costs in the US and in Oregon are
higher than in other countries around the world. The
only way that Oregon agriculture can remain
competitive is to take advantage of technology.
Sometimes that drives controversy. But we are smart
enough to know how to use technology to our advantage
and still provide an extremely high quality, safe food
product for Oregonians, Americans, and consumers all
over the world.
There are so many facets to Oregon agriculture,
focusing on two themes doesn't come close to telling
the whole story. That's why confining the celebration
to a single week isn't enough.
I would like National Agriculture Week to last 52
weeks a year. How can Oregonians best continue to
celebrate? Go out and buy an Oregon product. Several
retail establishments in this state really do a great
job of working with Oregon producers to source local
foods. We have farmers' markets now open and operating
for the season, so take the opportunity to visit a
farmers' market. We have wonderful nursery products
ready to bloom this spring. Go out and buy some Oregon
nursery stock and plant it in your yard. Just do
anything that directs your dollars to supporting
I'm incredibly proud of the farmers and ranchers in
Oregon for all they do. I know many Oregonians,
including urban residents, also recognize the great
contributions made by our agricultural producers. My
message to everyone involved in Oregon agriculture is
simple-keep up the great work.
Agriculture gives snapshot of Oregon farms
Oregon is reporting a smaller number of farms and a
slight decrease in the size of those farms, according
to data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture released
last month by the US Department of Agriculture's
National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). The
14-month process of collecting and tabulating
information from the nation's farmers and ranchers has
been completed. A quick look at the figures shows that
Oregon is running counter to the rest of the nation in
many areas, including a reported decline in the total
number of farms.
Average age of farmers in Oregon
Among the national highlights:
- There are more than 2.2 million farms in the US,
a four percent increase from the 2.13 million farms
counted in the 2002 census.
- Average size of US farms is 418 acres, down from
the average size of 441 acres in 2002.
- Very small and very big farming operations
experienced strong growth in the last five
years-more so than mid-size farms and ranches. The
largest increase in number of farms is in the
category of farms reporting less than $2,500 in
annual sales, which also represents the greatest
number of farm operations in the US. That number
increased about 9 percent. The largest percentage
increase in farms is with those reporting more than
$500,000 in annual sales. That number increased by
about 63 percent.
- Average age of operator is 57.1 years, up from
the average of 55.3 years old reported in 2002.
- Oregon's census data shows a state headed in a
slightly different direction. Among the state
highlights from the 2007 Census of Agriculture:
- The number of farms in Oregon is 38,553, down
about 4 percent from 2002 when there were 40,033
- The average size of farms in Oregon decreased
slightly to 425 acres in 2007.
- The amount of land in farms in Oregon fell 4
percent to 16,399,647 acres in 2007.
- Contrary to the national trend, the number of
farms dropped in all categories of income with the
exception of operations with more than $500,000 in
annual sales. That includes small farms with less
than $2,500 in annual sales. There are more
operations of that size than any other, with about
45 percent of all Oregon farms falling into that
- Market value of agricultural products sold
increased 37 percent in 2007 to $4.3 billion.
However, farm production expenses increased 34
percent to $3.7 billion. The increase in expenses
may have led to some of the decrease in the number
of small farms in Oregon.
- The average age of operator in Oregon is 57.5
years, up from 54.9 years in 2002 and slightly more
than the US average of 57.1 years old.
- The percentage of principal operators in Oregon
reporting something other than farming as their
primary occupation has increased to 54 percent
compared to just 43 percent of all operators in
The latest census shows some interesting production
and sales trends. In Oregon, organic production sales
increased nearly 900 percent, from about $9.9 million
in 2002 to $88 million in 2007. In addition, farm
direct sales-through such venues as farm stands and
farmers' markets-increased 250 percent, from $21.4
million in 2002 to $56.3 million in 2007.
Additional data, including individual county
statistics, is now available and there will be greater
interpretation of the numbers in the months to come.
For now, the preliminary figures can be useful as well
"This first glance of the census data reaffirms the
strength of Oregon agriculture and its contribution to
our state's economy," says Katy Coba, director of the
Oregon Department of Agriculture. "We still need to
keep an eye on a few numbers of concern, including the
increasing age of our farmers and ranchers, and the
decreasing number of farms and farm acreage in
The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five
years, and is the most ambitious and important
compilation of all agriculture surveys. Data from all
50 states has been gathered and is being analyzed
following a comprehensive survey of nearly every known
farmer and rancher in the United States.
Eastern Oregon counties move up agricultureís
top 10 list
Marion County remains the runaway leader, two eastern
Oregon counties have cracked the top three, and more
than half of Oregonís 36 counties reported an increase
in agricultural sales in 2008 according to statistics
released by Oregon State University. Many counties
reported dramatic growth last year buoyed by high
prices and good yields. The latest figures continue to
emphasize the importance of agriculture to both the
local and state economy.
Oregonís total agricultural sales for 2008 are up 1.2
percent at more than $4.9 billion with eight counties
recording double digit increases this past year.
Here is the county ranking for 2008 gross farm and
- Marion County, $604 million
- Umatilla County, $379 million
- Morrow County, $371 million
- Clackamas County, $364 million
- Washington County, $302 million
- Klamath County, $301 million
- Linn County, $296 million
- Yamhill County, $284 million
- Malheur County, $276 million
- Polk County, $164 million
workshop focus on farmers' markets
markets and the Oregon Department of Agriculture are
using the classroom to address the growing concern
among consumers for a safe food supply. A series of
seven workshops recently held across the state
provided farmers' market managers and vendors with
food safety information they can put into action once
the season begins in earnest this spring.
"We all have the same goal of ensuring a safe food
supply for everyone, and this kind of training helps
move us closer to achieving that goal," says Kelly
Streit, a farmer and nutritionist from Tualatin who is
part of the Oregon Farmers' Market Association (OFMA)
Board of Directors.
Participation in the statewide workshops was
voluntary, but those attending obtained useful tips on
food preparation, handling, and storage-key areas for
minimizing the risk of food-borne pathogens. Both ODA
and the OFMA are quick to point out the workshops are
no indication of a specific or severe food safety
problem in Oregon farmers' markets.
"We are not identifying any specific problems that
exist right now in our farmers' markets, it's more of
a case of prevention," says Ellen Laymon, food program
manager with ODA's Food Safety Division. "ODA has
never formally directed an education campaign to this
group. It has been a gap in our outreach efforts. So
for the first time, we have developed training
materials and are taking them on the road."
Participants received more than just a lecture. ODA
food safety specialists demonstrated proper procedures
and equipment necessary to protect food at farmers'
"Maintaining food at the proper temperature is
critical," says Laymon. "So we actually showed people
what kinds of thermometers are acceptable for taking
the temperature of food products. We also took
portable handwash stations to the workshops. We need
to show vendors and market managers exactly what we
mean when we talk about making handwashing available
where certain types of food is being served for
sampling to the public."
Requirements for farmers' markets include washing
hands before preparing or serving food samples,
thoroughly rinsing all fruits and vegetables with
potable water before cutting them, using clean
utensils and equipment, and discarding cut produce
samples and other food items after four hours if they
require refrigeration. The proper temperatures for
keeping food out of the danger zone-above 130 degrees
Fahrenheit for hot foods and below 41 degrees for cold
items-were emphasized at the workshops.
ODA also offered advice on safe sampling designs that
prevent customers from contaminating food. Examples
include sticking a toothpick in each sample to
discourage toothpick reuse, spooning individual
samples for the customer rather having the customer
serve themselves, and filling small disposable cups
with food samples. There was also advice on product
labeling as required by law.
"Produce growers are not necessarily the highest
concern at farmers' markets," says Laymon. "Those who
manufacture food products like baked goods or cheese
available for sampling are more of a target for
education because of the actual touching of the
In fact, vendors offering processed foods at farmers'
markets are required to have a license with ODA. Fresh
fruit and vegetable growers do not, unless they are
selling produce grown on someone else's farm.
In conjunction with a presentation from ODA's Food
Safety Division, the workshops featured information
from the agency's Commodity Inspection Division on
certification programs that ensure good handling
practices of fresh fruits and vegetables. Both
presentations offered food for thought to those who
offer food for sale.
ODA's Measurement Standards Division is also part of
the workshop agenda, providing licensing information
for those who use scales to sell product by weight.
The most recent peanut butter and peanut product
nationwide recall has once again brought food safety
to the forefront. Officials agree that eliminating
risk factors is easier than dealing with an outbreak
of food-borne illness.
"Education is a preventive step and not a reactive
step you find yourself in with a food recall," says
Laymon. "If you help vendors and market managers
understand which food safety factors are most
important and why, I believe they will do the right
thing. Again, we are not suggesting that food sold at
farmers' markets is not safe. We are not seeing a rash
of food illnesses associated with farmers' markets. We
just think this is an important outreach activity."
With more than seven-dozen farmers' markets now
operating in Oregon, connecting consumers with local
food products has never been more popular. Making sure
that food is safe has never been more important.
agriculture takes advantage of conservation programs
Oregon's farmers and ranchers are among the nation's
leaders when it comes to tapping into federal
conservation programs. Since 2000, the amount of
government payments for conservation programs to
Oregon producers has grown by more than 400 percent,
according to statistics provided by the US Department
of Agriculture. That reflects the commitment Oregon
agriculture has for protecting and improving the
state's natural resources.
Conservation funds have helped restore riparian
"Oregon agriculture has a very good story to tell in
terms of its contribution to protecting and enhancing
the environment," says Oregon Department of
Agriculture Director Katy Coba. "Our farmers and
ranchers recognize the importance of investing in
measures that sustain the natural resources so
important to agriculture."
The dramatic rise in conservation program payments by
the federal government is evident in the statistics.
In 2000, Oregon received about $23 million. That
number has steadily increased over the past eight
years to nearly $94 million in 2007. Those dollars led
to several on-the-ground projects that have improved
water quality, reduced soil erosion, and enhanced
wildlife habitat-all key measures of overall
environmental health in Oregon.
"Oregon has positioned itself well to compete
nationally for some of these conservation funds that
have come through the Farm Bill," says Larry Ojua,
manager of ODA's Soil and Water Conservation District
Program. "Recent Farm Bills have dedicated more money
in green payments and conservation programs. Even
before the emphasis, our state has done a lot of
conservation work in the past. That has not gone
unnoticed. As an example, the federal Conservation
Security Program (CSP), a program administered by the
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, rewards
producers who are already doing good conservation
work. It incentivizes them to do more. Many of those
payments are coming to Oregon because we have made
conservation a high priority."
The federal dollars don't just sit in an idle account.
The money is spent wisely.
"We wouldn't be receiving more than $93 million in
conservation program money if Oregon wasn't stepping
up and providing an investment in protecting natural
resources to begin with," says Ojua.
Oregon's historically strong conservation ethic is
backed up by organized state and local organizations
that promote the federal programs and educate
landowners about the benefits of participation.
Outreach and education efforts create an awareness
that there is funding to help landowners who want to
make improvements on their property. Local soil and
water conservation districts (SWCDs) and watershed
councils have been selling the idea for years. Now
that there is more to sell-the 2008 Farm Bill
dedicates even more money for conservation-there is an
even greater opportunity for Oregon.
Some programs essentially pay rent for
environmentally-sensitive land that is taken out of
agricultural production. Other programs fund technical
assistance and on-the-ground projects. In both cases,
financial incentives appeal to a high percentage of
farmers and ranchers who want to do the right thing.
The economic benefits of participation serve to
enhance the environmental benefits. One specific
program-the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)-is
a good example of how federal funds help. CREP is a
partnership program between the USDA Farm Service
Agency (FSA) and the State of Oregon. CREP provides
incentives to landowners who install and maintain
riparian buffers on agricultural land. More than $59
million will be paid out to Oregon farmers and
ranchers during the life of the 15-year contracts they
signed beginning in 1999. That money includes rental
payments and on-the-ground payments for such
conservation practices as installing trees and shrubs
CREP provides great leverage for state dollars. FSA
provides 75 percent of the funds to install
conservation projects and 100 percent of the land
rental payments. On average, Oregon has been investing
an additional $2 million through the Oregon Watershed
Enhancement Board (OWEB) as a supplement to the
federal funds appropriated for riparian improvements.
Voters have also enabled SWCDs to effectively enhance
the money that comes from conservation payments. There
are now 11 districts with a permanent tax rate, as
approved by voters. Those districts can now offer
their own cost share program, giving producers
multiple opportunities for funds and assistance.
"For Wasco and Sherman counties, districts have been
successfully dealing with erosion control," says Ojua.
"These are places with a high percentage of producers
adopting reduced tillage or no-till systems. In the
Willamette Valley, where there are so many specialty
crops, districts have been implementing cover crops,
irrigation water management, and integrated pest
management. In Hood River County, weather stations
have been installed and producers are figuring out
when and how they should spray their orchards to
reduce drift-practices that minimize impact to water
quality. All these management techniques and projects
are making a difference."
Whether it is CSP, CREP, the Environmental Quality
Incentive Program (EQIP), or the long list of other
federal programs that offer money for good
conservation work, Oregon producers are aggressively
taking advantage-in some cases, outcompeting their
counterparts in other states for available funds.
|Oregon Farm &
Ranch Sesquicentennial Award
By Madeline MacGregor
Waiting for the ceremony to begin
The Big One Five O!
On February 14, 2009, the Oregon Sesquicentennial
Award was presented to five Oregon farms and ranches.
Over 10,000 visitors squeezed into the State Capitol
Building to celebrate the kickoff of Oregon's 150th
year of statehood. Amid the crush of elbows, and lines
of eager faces waiting for free cake and hotdogs, a
steady stream of Oregon ranchers and farmers wound its
way to the Senate Chamber.
Clad in John Deere caps or cowboy hats, dress pants or
blue jeans, senior members of families arrived in
wheelchairs or walked steadily holding the hands of
grown children and grandchildren. Infants and toddlers
snuggled close or sat on the laps of their parents.
Sisters, brothers, cousins, and altogether, six
generations of Oregon's agricultural community were in
For the first time in senate history, honorees were
allowed private admittance to the senate floor. As the
doors to the chambers closed, a peaceful hush
prevailed-a world away from the noisy hubbub of the
birthday mob outside.
What does it take?
As each family made its way to the front of the
chamber to receive their award certificate, beaming
smiles were tempered with serious introspection. The
tenuous nature of farming is the inheritance woven
into the honorees' daily lives. And although 150 years
have passed since original Donation Land Claims (DLC)
were established, time has not diminished the
obstacles facing these families.
Family farms and ranches must weather a multitude of
physical and emotional hurdles punctuated by the
spread of urban development into rural reserves.
Spiraling costs of fertilizer, fuel, and feed;
competition from foreign produced imports; or
regulatory measures tailored to large scale operations
rather than the small or mid-size farm have produced
many a sleepless night. Factor in neighbors who may
not understand the noise, dust, or odors from farming
and the hurdles assume colossal heights. Are there
enough positive incentives, both monetary and
emotional, that will support these families for
another 150 years? What must be done to encourage the
next generation to pursue a career in agriculture?
Without Oregon's agricultural industry, our state
would be hard pressed to celebrate its
sesquicentennial. Most families recognized by the
Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program are true stewards
of the land. They participate in cultural and
historical associations such as the National Historic
Register or municipal and regional historical
societies. They engage in conservation restoration
enhancement and water quality programs that benefit
the population at large, not just their own land and
operations. They promote healthy discussions on how to
approach and resolve public and industry conflicts.
Oregon's farmers are innovators, inventors, educators,
and risk-takers extraordinaire. They are caretakers of
the green wide-open beauty that Oregon exhibits to the
rest of the nation. As co-sponsors of the Oregon
Century Farm & Ranch Program, ODA salutes this year's
sesquicentennial award recipients.
And the award goes to...
The William Goodrich Farm, founded in 1848.
William's family traveled the Oregon Trail with the
Barlow wagon train in 1845. As the wagons became mired
in snow in the mountain passes, personal belongings
were abandoned, and the family members walked the rest
of the way to Oregon City. Owned by Donald C. Goodrich
and Eunice M. Goodrich, the farm is located in Yamhill
County. One hundred and sixteen acres remain today,
and produce grass seed, corn, beans, and beet and
The J. Rowland Farm, founded in 1845.
Jeremiah Rowland arrived in Oregon in 1844, and
established a double parcel DLC in Yamhill County.
Married three times, Jeremiah raised 14 children.
Early crops on the farm included wheat, barley, and
oats. The farm once produced 12,000 bushels of wheat
and 11,000 bushels of oats. Cows and hogs were also
raised. Owned today by Jeremiah's great, great
granddaughter, Marian L. Gray, the farm's 38 tillable
acres now grow grass seed and clover.
The Hawley Land & Cattle Company, founded in
1852. The great, great grandparents of
current owner Bill Hoyt, Ira and Elvira Hawley,
traveled by wagon train to their DLC site near Cottage
Grove with five head of cattle and three young sons.
Old-timers refer to the ranch as the "ranch at the
divide," because it is situated between the drainage
of the Umpqua and Willamette rivers. Hoyt's great aunt
Alsea Hawley propelled the ranch into the seed stock
business by purchasing a Canadian National Champion
polled Hereford bull. During her time, the ranch was
heralded as one of Oregon's premier seed stock
producers. Hoyt has continued to diversify, and now
raises sheep and goats as well as cattle. His invasive
weed PhD project teams with OSU-and uses grazing goats
for weed control in environmentally sensitive areas.
Hoyt is president-elect of the Oregon's Cattlemen's
The Montgomery Farm, founded in 1857.
William Grimes Montgomery and his wife Mary Cusick met
as children, on neighboring DLC parcels. When they
married in 1855, Mary was just 13-years old-and she
and her 21-year old husband qualified for a 320-acre
parcel of their own. Because their DLC was located
between their parents, they were able to plant a
large-scale fruit orchard that included apples,
prunes, pears, and cherries. Each year William would
load up his wagon with his farm raised and smoked hams
and bacon, and travel from Scio to Oregon City. In the
1920s, William's descendants grew corn silage. In the
1980s, a southern portion of the farm was planted in
grass seed. Today, William's great, great grandson
Leland Montgomery has 123 acres in grass seed
The Sprenger Farm, founded in 1852.
Nicholas Sprenger caught "Oregon fever" and moved to
the Willamette Valley with his wife Maria Bird and 13
children. The Sprengers were able to secure a 320-acre
DLC, 11 miles south of Albany. Early crops included
grain and hay, and diversified livestock. A two-story
barn, built by one of Sprenger's sons in 1873, still
stands proudly on the farm today. It boasts hand-hewn
timbers that stretch 54-feet in length. Wooden pegs
connect the old timbers to one another. Sprenger's
great, great granddaughter Rebecca Owen operates the
farm today. Grass seed is produced and sheep, horses,
and cows occupy the outbuildings.
helps nursery improve energy efficiency
By Stephanie Page, ODA renewable energy specialist
new greenhouse walls and roof save on natural gas
In 2007, Woodburn-based Fessler Nursery successfully
applied for a USDA Rural Development grant to fund
greenhouse energy efficiency improvements. The nursery
became one of a growing number of Oregon businesses to
receive grants through this program, which was
reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill and is now called
the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Oregon
energy professionals have been pleased with the
growing interest in REAP and hope to see even more
successful applications from Oregon in 2009.
Fessler Nursery uses natural gas to run forced-air
heaters in its greenhouses, which contain a variety of
annual plants and hanging baskets sold in retail and
"Heating costs are 12 percent of our annual expenses,
so we were interested in reducing energy use,"
explains Marvin Fessler.
The nursery began looking at options to replace old
fiberglass greenhouse walls and roofs, which had
become clouded with age and had a low heat retention
capacity. An energy audit evaluated the benefits of
upgrading the greenhouse walls.
"We compared the energy savings from converting to a
new double-wall material with a U-value of 0.55, with
leaving our existing walls, which have a U-value of
0.7," explains Fessler. The U-value is a measure of
the material's capacity to lose heat; the lower the
U-value, the better. "The projected payback was 4.2
Fessler decided to apply for a USDA Rural Development
Energy Efficiency Grant for the new walls and roof.
The program requires a professional energy audit for
all efficiency applications, so the nursery submitted
its audit to document the projected savings.
"We were going to do the project anyway, but the grant
would make it an even better deal for us," he says.
The application process was time consuming, but
Fessler is pretty positive about it.
"It's not hard," he says. "It just takes time. The
USDA staff were a big help, and they walked me through
all the forms that I needed to fill out."
Jeff Deiss, Business Program Director for the Oregon
office of USDA Rural Development, has worked with
other Oregon staff to promote the program and help
applicants through the process.
"We're committed to help deliver programs to Oregon
businesses," says Deiss.
As part of the construction, the nursery put in clear
material on the roof, and white material on the walls.
"The old fiberglass was so yellowed, there wasn't as
much light getting through to the plants," explains
Fessler. "The new material allows more light in, which
allows even more heating in the winter."
The nursery also installed roof vents at the same time
they replaced the greenhouse walls and roof.
"On its own, the roof vent project didn't make sense
-the projected payback was something like 30 years,"
says Fessler. "But when we combined it with replacing
the walls and roof, it worked out."
Now that the roof vents are in place, the Fesslers
don't need to run ventilation fans in the summer.
"We used to run them 18 to 20 hours a day in the
summer. Now, we just have the roof vent programmed to
open on its own at specific temperatures. The vent
system is much quieter than the fans. We left them in
there just in case, but we haven't needed them yet."
In total, the project cost $183,000. The USDA Rural
Development grant covered 25 percent.
"I would definitely recommend the program to others,"
Fessler says. "It's well worth the time I put into
Deiss estimates that the USDA will open the grant
application period sometime in late March or early
April 2009, and that there will be two application
deadlines, one in April and one in June. He encourages
potential participants to start putting their projects
together as soon as possible.
"If anyone is interested in pursuing one of these
grants, now is the time to start," says Deiss.
More information is available on the Oregon Rural
Development Office Web site at
dairy operators for outreach and education
At the dairy industry's annual convention this winter,
the Oregon Department of Agriculture recognized a
handful of farm operators for their willingness to
educate members of the Dairy Air Quality Task Force-a
group exploring technical and policy issues
surrounding air emissions from Oregon dairy farms.
On-site tours helped the task force understand the
challenges and complexities faced by dairy farmers
when it comes to air quality, and what some operators
are doing about it.
Bernie Faber (left) and ODA's Wym Matthews (right)
"If you can imagine being asked to let a group of 30
folks, most of whom you don't know, into your back
yard to assess if anything there needs regulation,
that was the request we were making of these award
recipients," says Wym Matthews, manager of ODA's
Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Program.
Among the award winners was Salem dairy farmer Bernie
Faber of Cal-Gon Farms, who proudly showed off the
methane digester he uses to handle cow manure.
Other award winners include Rickreall Dairy, Forest
Glen Oaks of Dayton, Jenck Farms of Tillamook, and
Columbia River Dairy of Boardman.
The tours played a major role in the task force's
ability to produce a comprehensive report and
recommendations on dairy air quality to the
publications now available
|It's been a busy
publications season in the ODA Information Office.
There are three new information-packed publications
that may interest you. You can request printed copies
by calling the ODA Information Office, 503-986-4550.
All three publications are also available on-line.
2008 Oregon Agripedia
Cost: No charge
The Oregon Agripedia combines the information of the
Oregon Agricultural Statistics Bulletin, the Oregon
Farmer's Handbook, and the Oregon Agricultural
Resources Directory into one handy reference for
Oregon agriculture facts, laws, and resources. This
publication is also available on CD. Published
The State of Oregon Agriculture
Cost: No charge
The State of Oregon Agriculture is the report from
the Board of Agriculture to the governor and the
legislature. This document will introduce you to the
current State Board of Agriculture members and
highlight the major issues faced by Oregon
agricultural producers. Published January 2009.
Oregon Department of Agriculture 2007-2009
Cost: No charge
The Biennial Report is all about the people and the
work of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The
Biennial Report provides a summary of ODA
activities, accomplishments, and goals. Published
for Agriculture Auction and Dinner
When: Saturday, April 18, 2009
2009 Oregon Ag Fest
Where: Linn County Fair & Expo Center
When: Saturday, April 25, 8:30am-5pm
Sunday, April 26, 10am-5pm
Where: Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem
Oregon State Board of Agriculture Meeting
When: May 13, 14, and 15, 2009
Where: Salem Agriculture Building Hearings Room, 635
Capitol St NE, Salem, OR 97301
Weed control grants available
Applications are due July 15, 2009
Contact: Shannon Brubaker, grant program coordinator
Oregon Invasive Species Council meeting
When: June 24 and 25, 2009
Where: Portland, Oregon. Location to be determined.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
USDA Rural Development will likely announce a REAP
grant application period this spring. This program
offers grants and loan guarantees to agricultural
producers and rural small businesses for energy
efficiency and renewable energy projects. For
updates on the program, check the Oregon USDA Rural
Development Web site at
Save a tree. Get the AQ online