Remember when your mom told you to eat your vegetables? Well, if they were grown in Oregon, chances are she was doing you a favor. Oregon is well known for high quality vegetable crops, but new statistics show that the state’s growers also produce variety and quantity.
“We talk about the diversity of Oregon agriculture and the wide range of crops we grow here,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Marketing Director Gary Roth. “But it’s not just that we produce more than 220 different crops, we are actually a leader in many areas, including growing vegetables.”
According to 2014 numbers provided by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Oregon ranks 6th of all states in production of fresh market vegetables at about 767,000 tons and 10th in value of production of fresh vegetables at more than $129 million. When it comes to growing vegetables for processing, Oregon ranks 5th in the nation in both production and value of production, at nearly 300,000 tons and $53.6 million respectively. California continues to dominate the scene and is responsible for more than half of the nation’s fresh vegetable production as well as 74 percent of the processed vegetable production. Nonetheless, Oregon stacks up well against other veggie states.
“We are in the top ten in fresh vegetable production and in the top five in processed vegetable production, but we like to think we are number one in quality,” says Roth.
More acreage in Oregon is dedicated for vegetables grown for processing than for fresh market, but several counties do well in both categories. Umatilla, Marion, and Morrow counties are the top three for acres of vegetables grown for processing. Umatilla, Malheur, Morrow, Marion, and Clackamas counties round out the top five for acreage planted in fresh market vegetables.
Nationally, fresh market vegetable production in 2014 was down one percent from the previous year. However, in Oregon, production actually increased about three percent last year. With prices down for many fresh vegetables in Oregon, the state’s value of production in 2014 actually dropped nearly 20 percent despite the fact that more vegetables were grown during the year.
Oregon consumers have increased their appetite for locally-grown vegetables. The popularity of farmers’ markets and farm stands, along with grocery stores and restaurants featuring local vegetables, have raised the level of demand statewide.
It may come as a surprise that Oregon ranks 10th in the nation in fresh market sweet corn production and 9th in production value at $17.2 million. The ranking is even higher for sweet corn used for processing, as Oregon stands at 4th in the nation at both production and value of production at $27.8 million in 2014. Marion, Umatilla, Linn, and Morrow counties are the leading producers of Oregon sweet corn. Among Oregon’s top 40 commodities, sweet corn ranks 21st.
Three states are responsible for virtually all garlic grown for the fresh market– California is an overwhelming number one, followed by Nevada and Oregon. The value of production for fresh market garlic in Oregon is a shade over $1 million– not a huge economic driver statewide but certainly important to Central Oregon and Jefferson County, where much of the garlic is grown along with Marion County.
Oregon is clearly among the nation’s top producers of onions for both fresh market and processing. What NASS refers to as “summer storage” onions– the predominant type grown in the US– Oregon ranks 2nd, producing more than 73,000 tons last year. Total production value for both fresh market and processed onions exceeded $106 million, which is down from 2013 but still good enough to rank onions at #8 among all Oregon commodities. Only one time in the NASS vegetable report is a specific county mentioned with its own production and value statistics– Malheur County, because of its onion production which tops that of the rest of the state. Morrow County also grows a significant amount of dry onions.
Oregon shows up in the top ten of squash production for fresh market and processing with just under 20,000 tons in 2014. The production value of $4.4 million drops outside the top ten because the price paid for Oregon squash is significantly lower than some of the other states. Marion, Multnomah, and Clackamas counties are the major growers of squash in Oregon.
The NASS report indicates that only four other states harvest more acreage than Oregon of selected processed vegetables– a list that includes lima beans, snap beans, carrots, sweet corn, cucumbers for pickles, green peas, spinach, and tomatoes. Oregon is responsible for just under five percent of the nation’s acreage in that category, ranking behind California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Looking at vegetables produced for processing only, Oregon ranks 3rd of all states in snap bean production and value of production at 34,850 tons and $13.9 million respectively. Snap beans rank #36 among Oregon’s top commodities. Marion, Polk, Linn, and Yamhill counties remain top producers of snap beans.
Green peas for processing is another Oregon specialty. The state ranks 4th in production at 41,430 tons and 4th in value of production at $10.4 million. That’s good enough for 39th on Oregon’s top commodity list. Nearly all of Oregon’s green peas for processing are grown in Umatilla County.
Consumers may pay more attention to fresh vegetables, especially as they arrive at the local farmers’ markets, but they shouldn’t forget that those local veggies are available year around.
“For our processors, who do an outstanding job, the product that does not go to the fresh market but does go to processing facilities is not second grade product,” says Roth. “They are very particular about the top quality product that goes into their frozen and canned items.”
Oregon wouldn’t be processing so many vegetables if it didn’t do a good job growing them. The same statement is true for fresh market vegetables. High quality, great taste, and packed with nutrition– vegetables are a large part of the Oregon’s agricultural cornucopia.
For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.
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