Key Organizations and Activities
Oregon Rural Action commissioned an analysis of Union County’s farm and food economy from the Crossroads Resource Center in 2011. That study estimated that more than 90% of food purchased by residents is sourced from outside the county, and concluded, in part, that: “If Union County residents purchased 15% of their food for home use directly from county farmers, this would generate $6 million of new farm income for the county. This would require each resident of the county to buy, on average, $4.50 of food directly from farmers each week.”
Oregon Rural Action published a Farm and Food Directory, with listings for five counties, including Union County. ORA worked to support introduction of USDA certified slaughter and processing by Stafford’s Custom Meats. The Blue Mountain Chapter of Oregon Rural Action also sponsors a community garden and is working on educational events to promote local farmers and ranchers and the benefits of eating local.
Northeast Oregon Economic Development District has offered farm and food business planning classes, farm succession training, workshops on use of row covers for season extension, and supported grant applications by local community partners.
North Powder Charter School has implemented a farm-to-school program with tastings and cafeteria meals using Oregon Harvest of the Month ingredients. A FoodCorps service member teaches students nutrition, cooking, and garden-based science and math activities. Students also help manage a 1000 square foot garden, with produce served in the school cafeteria and donated to a local food bank.
Community Goals and Recommendations
A community food assessment has not been completed for Union County. However, the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for Baker, Union and Wallowa Counties for 2013-2018 includes a focus area on food systems development:
- Activities: Provide training to food producers and organizations, connect producers, help implement strategic plans.
- Short-Term Objectives: Increased knowledge & skills of food producers, connections made between producers.
- Intermediate Objective: More locally-produced food eaten in the region and increased exports of value-added food.
- Long-term Goals: Businesses realize higher net incomes, create new, higher-wage jobs, increase product exports; consumers spend and invest more within the region.
An associated project description reads: “Collaborate with agricultural producers, processors & advocates to identify existing and needed equipment/facilities and services to enhance regional food systems and access to markets; conduct supply chain/product transportation assessment, share information; identify potential funding mechanisms.”