Members of the Beginning Farmer Rancher Working Group collaborate to coordinate existing services for Oregon’s beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs) at all stages of development, between years 0 and 10 years of involvement in agricultural production. The primary focus of this working group is to support BFRs through education and training programs plus available resources and services for this segment of Oregon agriculture.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (BFRs) need training, and facilitated access to land and other resources. We recognize that BFRS need support so they can run viable, sustainable businesses in our communities and contribute to healthy, vibrant local food economies. BFRs are facing significant barriers to success from rising costs of land, housing, health care, childcare, student loan debt and more. BFRs from the BIPOC, LBGTQ and other underrepresented communities face systemic oppression to their success due to institutional discrimination, exclusionary policies, and structural racist inequity. Additionally, corporate land ownership and policies favoring non-agricultural investors and large-scale agriculture have challenged the economic viability and sustainability of small and mid-sized family farms.
Working together helps ensure that the needs of BFRs are addressed across the state and that diverse perspectives are represented in program development and delivery and that resources are available to all.
Current BFR Working Group Projects & Advisory Committees
Story Map and Brochure:
We have a variety of organizations and agencies working to support BFRs, many are members of this working group. See our Story Map and Beginning Farm and Rancher Resource Guide for a glimpse at the programs and resources currently working to support BFRs across the state.
Diversity and Inclusion:
The BFR Working Group aims to help create a new narrative that includes the voices of the systemically marginalized to help guide and shape what the future of BFRs are in Oregon. This includes access to farmland in urban and rural settings, access to the education, skill development, and resources required to successfully and sustainably farm, and an opportunity for BIPOC and underserved groups to be centered in decision-making, and leadership regarding strategies to pursue and to achieve our shared vision.
Through increased outreach, support, and engagement the BFR Working Group is inviting new people to share information and make connections, we are investigating best practices for creating inclusive learning environments and teaching methods, and actively recruiting BIPOC BFR’s to access existing educational opportunities and resources, while identifying needs and gaps in service to be able to better serve all BFR’s in Oregon.
Land Connection Technical Assistance Pilot Project:
Guided by successful models in other states and the variety of expertise on our collaborative team, this Advisory Committee launched a year-long pilot program in the fall of 2019 aimed at addressing the need for more technical assistance for land transition and in accessing land. Please see our page on this pilot program for more information.
The BFR Working Group thinks it is important to advocate for improvements and funding that will support the viability of new and beginning farmers and ranchers in Oregon. This includes reaching out to decision makers, foundations, and agencies such as the ODA and USDA to ensure cooperative relationships and to demonstrate the priorities of our collaborative network.
OCFSN Member Organizations
Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council
Friends of Family Farmers
High Desert Food and Farm Alliance
Huerto de la Familia
Nehalem Valley Trust
Northeast Oregon Economic Development District
Oregon Agricultural Trust
Oregon Food Bank
OSU Center for Small Farms
Rogue Farm Corps
The Next Door, Inc.
Willamette Food and Farm Coalition
Barking Mad Farm
Beaverton School District
Boots to Roots
Clackamas Community College
Columbia Wealth Advisors
East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District + Headwaters Incubator Program
Food Roots NW
Northwest Farm Credit Services
Small Business Development Center
Southern Oregon University
Ways to engage further with this working group
1) Join the BFR Working Group:
Sign up for the listserv to receive communications; participate in quarterly Working Group meetings; provide input or further engage in group activities; share resources you think others should be aware of; ask questions or raise issues; influence decisions.
2) Become an Advisory Committee Member:
Join one of the Advisory Committees focused on a specific topic (Outreach & DEI; Land Connection Technical Assistance; Advocacy; Curriculum Review & Analysis) to receive communications, provide feedback, influence decisions, and attend meetings as needed. You need not be a member of OCFSN to join the BFR Working Group or an Advisory Committee.
3) Working Group and/or Advisory Committee Stakeholder:
Opt to receive communications via the BFR listserv or Advisory Committee communications on specific topics
4) BFR Working Group leadership:
Members of OCFSN can chair or co-chair the BFR group, or help this Working Group Liaison between other Working Groups and OCFSN Committees.
History of the BFR Working Group
In 2013, BFR education and service providers began convening with the idea to collaborate to evaluate the programs and resources provided and the gaps in services for Oregon’s diverse BFRs. Eventually, this informal collaboration recognized that they could better achieve their collective goals of coordinating existing services and exploring new and expanded services for BFRs in Oregon if they were part of a larger network or organizations. They also believe that their work could enrich the existing coordination of efforts, ideas, and resources taking place through OCFSN. Many BFR coalition members are currently members of OCFSN and many are already on a related OCFSN committee – the Access to Land working group.
While access to land is a crucial component of BFR success, it is not sufficient in itself to launch a BFR business. In addition, BFRs are only one demographic that has difficulty accessing farmland in Oregon. Adding the BFR Working Group to OCFSN would help these two teams focus their efforts while also better understanding the synergies.
The BFR Working Group currently meets three to four times per year and has created a timeline and initial gap analysis of BFR programs and services in Oregon. This led to a BFR Needs Assessment in 2017 and the Story Map and Brochure as outreach materials in 2019. Current initiatives and committees are described above.
Megan Fehrman, BFR Working Group Coordinator