Farming diversity good for Oregon


In honor of National Ag Week, celebrated March 21-27, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned during my 17-year tenure with the Oregon Farm Bureau:

1. There’s room for — and a need for — all types of farming.

Organic, conventional, bio-tech, no-tech, small-scale, mid-size, corporate, direct-to-consumer, contract processor and international export can all be found in Oregon. And all have a vital place.

The myth that one type of farming is “good” and another “bad,” thus they should be pitted against each other, is just plain untrue.

I know farms in Oregon that grow organic crops on one field, conventional crops on another, and bio-tech crops like GMO alfalfa or sugar beet seed on a third. Other farms stick to just one method.

Farmers decide what to do based on many factors, including their customer base, market potential, location and labor and equipment availability.

2. Big doesn’t mean bad. The size of a farm or ranch does not dictate the size of its commitment to the well-being of its environment, animals, employees or neighbors.

A farmer with 2,000 acres cares as much about these things as does a farmer with 20 acres. Their day-to-day work may be different, but their values and integrity are shared.

Nearly 97% of Oregon’s farms and ranches — including its commercial-scale farms — are family-owned and operated.

Some are “corporate farms” by virtue of incorporation for tax purposes or succession planning. But they are run by families — people raising kids, often living on the farm, who are involved in their communities and are proud of what they do. These families are not in the business of harming their customers, their neighbors or themselves.

3. Part of sustainability is profitability.

Because eating food is such a personal act, there’s a tendency for consumers to forget the people growing their food are also running businesses. Even the smallest farms must ultimately make a profit to survive.

Few people get into agriculture to become rich quick. It often involves slim profit margins at the mercy of many uncontrollable factors, including weather, pests, fluctuating prices and rising costs.

This is compounded by the fact almost every realm of public policy, from transportation to taxes, directly affects agriculture. When regulations entail new fees or compliance costs, it’s very difficult for most farmers to pass these along to customers.

4. There’s no such thing as a “simple farmer.”

Farmers do more than raise crops or take care of animals. They also serve as business owners, accountants, scientists, meteorologists, mechanics and marketers.

Many are also innovators, always searching for new technology to help them produce more with less — less water, less fertilizer, less fuel, less pesticide.

5. There’s more that unites agriculture than divides it.

No matter the amount of acreage worked, farming method used, or number of animals raised, Oregon farmers and ranchers share core values: a deep love for the land, incredible work ethic, and immense pride in their work. 

Anne Marie Moss serves as communications director for the Oregon Farm Bureau, a Salem-based nonprofit representing the interests of farming and ranching families on a statewide basis since 1932.


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