Key Organizations and Activities
A community food assessment for Harney and Malheur counties was completed in 2009 by Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank, which noted that, “isolation and the lack of a local food system infrastructure paired with persistent poverty and unemployment that plague
the region have made food insecurity a critical issue faced by many people throughout
southeast Oregon.” A Second Year Progress Report was subsequently published in 2010.
A Local Food Guide and Community Cookbook for Southeast Oregon was started in 2010, which is distributed by the Argus Observer. That year, the Crossroad Resource Center also published a study titled, “Local Foods as Economic Recovery,” which included data from Harney County.
Harney County Senior & Community Services Center administers the county food bank. However, there are currently no other local organizations dedicated to food systems work.
According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, since 2002 Harney County has seen a nearly 20% reduction in the number of farmers/ranchers with cattle, dairy cows, hogs or sheep. There has, however, been an increase in the number of farmers selling poultry and eggs, and 10 farmers now report sales of fruit and vegetables. There is now a Harney County Farmers’ Market held in Hines, which supports about a dozen vendors.
Harney County has not engaged substantively in farm-to-school activity – with no districts in the county applying for Oregon Department of Education funding to support procurement and related educational programming in the 2014-2015 school year.
Community Goals and Recommendations
Goals identified by participants in the 2009 community food assessment included:
- Create an action-oriented, multi-stakeholder coalition that addresses individual and community food security and the needs of the agricultural community.
- Increase public awareness of food and agriculture-related issues and opportunities.
- Create an asset map of the local food system.
- Develop and distribute a local food guide.
- Create connections that build a food system that is supported by and benefits local producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
- Facilitate direct relationships between producers and retailers.
- Increase and maintain access to a stable food supply in underserved areas.
- Establish food pantries in communities not currently served.
- Increase access to healthy, fresh, locally-grown food throughout the region.
- Establish WIC, Senior voucher, and SNAP access at farmers’ markets and stands.
- Increase the amount of fresh food in emergency food programs.
- Promote programs for self-reliance, gardening and nutrition.
- Support and encourage the development of new community-based food projects.
- Promote development of community gardens and kitchens.
- Promote development of farmers’ markets and value-added food production.
These are appropriate goals for Harney County – but need more local engagement and support.