Oregonians and citizens across the United States have a chance to say thank you to the nation’s farmers and ranchers this coming week. Once again, Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor is providing a theme for each day.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy across the state,” says Taylor. “So, I think National Agriculture Week is a very exciting time to focus on and highlight our agricultural producers and the many aspects of our economy and way of life. Of course, as Oregonians, we have opportunities all year long to say thank you and appreciate our farmers, ranchers, and fishers.”
National Agriculture Week takes place March 18-24. With it running from Sunday through Saturday, Taylor has listed seven adjectives– one for each day– to describe agriculture in Oregon.
Sunday: Oregon agriculture is diverse
“When people ask me why I wanted to come to Oregon and work in this job, I talk about the diversity of the state’s agriculture. I grew up in Iowa– a state that had just a handful of major crops. Oregon has over 225 different types of crops and livestock. That’s really exciting. There is also diversity in who is growing our food and fiber. Nearly 40 percent of our farmers and ranchers are women. We also have a lot of regional diversity of what grows where in Oregon, which is very cool.”
Director Taylor also points out that Oregon producers represent a diversity of successful operations. That helps keep the industry resilient. Big or small, organic or convention, growing for local or export markets, Oregon is home to all types of agriculture.
There is one constant in Oregon agriculture– more than 98 percent of the nearly 35,000 farms in the state are family operations.
Monday: Oregon agriculture is thriving
“Agriculture is the second largest economic sector in the state and a real backbone to Oregon’s economy. It is farming, ranching, and fishing, but it’s also a lot of food manufacturing as well. The largest food manufacturing in the state is Multnomah, which goes to show that agriculture thrives even in the most urban of our counties. People living in the metro areas are also tied to agriculture and its jobs.”
Production value of Oregon agriculture is more than $5 billion. Value-added processing contributes another $2 billion in additional revenue to the state’s economy. It’s estimated that about 15 percent of Oregon’s gross state product– nearly $29 billion in economic activity– is connected to agriculture. The industry also supports more than 326,000 jobs. About one of eight Oregonians are employed in an occupation related to agriculture.
Tuesday: Oregon agriculture is authentic
“One of the attributes we are known for in Oregon, in other states, and around the world is that our farmers and ranchers produce high-quality, safe food and agricultural products that consumers demand. Sometimes we take that for granted because all this bounty is in our backyard. But I can tell you, as I travel, people view what we produce very favorably. They know Oregon products are consistently high quality.”
That authenticity is on display locally at farmers’ markets, CSAs, grocery stores, and restaurants. Consumers can many times meet the people who grow the food. Oregon quality products head to other states as well and make their way to international markets that often pay a high premium for Oregon products.
Wednesday: Oregon agriculture is universal
“The one great thing about agriculture is that everyone eats. Nothing is more personal than food and nothing is more universal than food. It’s what we provide to ourselves and our families. We all eat food and make choices every day with the ability to support local agriculture. In Oregon, that doesn’t mean buying one or two products, it means more than 225 products you can purchase and touch local agriculture.”
All Oregonians want safe, abundant, and affordable food. Oregon agriculture is able to provide those products. In addition, farmers, ranchers, and fishers share the values of Oregonians in sustaining natural resources by taking care of the land, air, and water. Oregon agriculture is both urban and rural– making it universal throughout the state.
Thursday: Oregon agriculture is innovative
“The use of new technologies and the interest in trying new things is really exciting. We see it on dairy farms that using robots to milk. We see it with precision agriculture or the use of drones in farming. Oregon is on the cutting edge of some of these new technologies. There is also innovation in the food sector in developing craft beers and cider, and the willingness to try planting certain crops that are new to Oregon.”
Friday: Oregon agriculture is boundless
“Yes, we need farmers and ranchers, we need people to grow our food. But the opportunities to work in agriculture go far beyond that. We need scientists, journalists, policy makers, logistics specialists, and those who work in marketing and advertising. There are a lot of really cool and exciting opportunities for all kinds of young people who are looking at careers.”
Saturday: Oregon agriculture is celebratory
“One week a year, we like to amplify and highlight agriculture by really pushing the message of all the contributions it brings to the state. But really, Oregonians can push that message all throughout the year with their pocketbook. I like to say, if you like to eat, thank a farmer. Share the Oregon agricultural experience. Go to a U-pick farm this summer. Plant your own garden. Prepared a great tasting meal featuring Oregon products. There are so many options to celebrate Oregon agriculture this coming week and for the rest of 2018.”