Beginning Farmer and Rancher Working Group Seeking to fill two positions

The Beginning Farmer Rancher (BFR) Working Group has two open paid part time positions. See descriptions below.

BFR Working Group Co-Coordinator (Applications due March 3, 2021)

We are seeking Co-Coordination services to supplement the current Coordination of the BFR Working Group. Services include participating in the activities of the working group; assisting with outreach strategies, particularly to organizations that are serving BIPOC farmers; engaging Working Group members and Advisory Committees in project management; encouraging participation and accountability of the group members; assisting with leadership of meetings (as needed); and increasing the usage and updating the online Story Map (see below) of BFR services and resource providers. The service provider needs to be enthusiastic and community-driven. Self-employed individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations are encouraged to respond.

This is a contract service. The Co-Coordinator is expected to provide up to 72 hours of coordination services over the course of 6-8 months (averaging 10 hours a month). Schedule is flexible and meeting times will be identified based on Co-Coordinator availability. This contract is funded through Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program funds that are being administered by Rogue Farm Corps (RFC) and financial contributions from other partners. Although the grant funding for this contract will end in September, the hope is that additional funding will be obtained to purchase additional services. Contract not to exceed $3,640, to be billed monthly at a rate of no more than $50/hour.


BFR Computer Service Tech (Applications due February 26, 2021)

We are searching for a contractor to assist us with the online technical tools that the BFR Working Group has developed. The Computer Services Tech position will help us develop a more usable Story Map, decrease technical glitches, and assist and train the “Story Map Coordinator” for the Working Group. Self-employed individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations are encouraged to respond.

This is a contract service. The Computer Services Tech is expected to provide up to 12 hours over the course of a month to achieve the desired outcomes. Schedule is flexible and meeting times will be identified based on availability. This contract is funded through Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program funds that are being administered by Rogue Farm Corps (RFC). Although the grant will end in September, the hope is that additional funding will be obtained to purchase additional services. This contract not to exceed $1200, to be billed monthly at a rate of no more than $100/hour.


OCFSN Member Food Alliance Issues Summary on Food Trends

As members of organizations working on farm and food issues, we each have our own areas of focus and expertise. It can be valuable, though, to step back and consider the larger food system. In the United States, food retail and food service combined represented $5.75 trillion in sales in 2017. What’s happening at that level? Food Alliance took some time to summarize consumer and market research trends from 2014 to 2019. You may be surprised and pleased by the results. Consumer attitudes are shifting and demand for traceability, transparency and social responsibility is increasing, which is leading to new opportunity for healthier, local and sustainable products. Download the summary to see results from the latest studies by the National Grocers Association, the National Restaurant Association, AT Kearney, the Hartman Group, and others.

Help us spread the word: Mini-Grants for Organizations Led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

OCFSN’s DEI Committee has created a mini-grant fund of up to $45,000 (with individual grants of $5,000 each) to fund organizations, community groups, and social enterprises that are led by and serve People of Color (POC), with priority given to Black- and Indigenous-led organizations. These funds come with few strings attached and no specific expected outcomes. Instead, these operational funds will build the capacity for BIPOC-led organizations in the food system.

OCFSN’s DEI Committee has created a mini-grant fund of up to $45,000 (with individual grants of $5,000 each) to fund organizations, community groups, and social enterprises that are led by and serve People of Color (POC), with priority given to Black- and Indigenous-led organizations. These funds come with few strings attached and no specific expected outcomes. Instead, these operational funds will build the capacity for BIPOC-led organizations in the food system.

Applications are due by November 22, 2019. Download the application here.

These grants would serve a few different goals:

  1. Build capacity for BIPOC-led organizations in the food system,
  2. Resource food justice movement work led by and for historically and persistently oppressed communities and
  3. Engage BIPOC-led organizations in OCFSN. 

The DEI Committee needs your help getting the word out! Please forward the attached application to organizations or groups who:

  • Are aligned with OCFSN’s mission and vision.
  • 501c3 or access to fiscal sponsorship. Social enterprises are also encouraged to apply.
  • A minimum of 3-5 core members.
  • 51+% of leadership are POC. Leadership is defined as, “the people who have the decision making power in your group or organization, who can impact strategic direction.”
  • Annual operating budgets less than $350K.
  • Priority will be given to Black & Indigenous led communities, immigrant/refugee communities and rural communities (defined as communities with populations of 40,000 people or less).

Submit applications electronically to Matt Buck ([email protected]) by November 22, 2019.
Direct any questions about the application to Jason Skipton ([email protected]).

Thank you for your help ensuring that groups across Oregon know about this opportunity.

Community Capital in Tillamook County: An OSU Extension Road Tour

By Lauren Johnson, Member Services Coordinator

How do you weigh the vibrancy of a community’s food system? OSU Extension’s Community Food Systems Working Group, facilitated by Lauren Gwin, toured Tillamook County using WealthWork’s 8 capitals framework as a lens and tried to do just that. We cruised around touring projects, meeting people, tasting the bounty, and discussing all of the different forms of wealth we were experiencing.

We had the joy of attending Food Roots’ beautiful dedication ceremony of their new hoop-houses (built capital that cultivates intellectual capital in beginning farmers). The hoop houses are dedicated to Food Roots’ founder, Shelly Bowe (someone who was incredibly talented at building social capital and investing in individual capital). At the Garibaldi docks, we took a Shop at the Docks tour and learned about Oregon’s incredible wild fisheries (natural capital) and all of the skill and method it takes to sustainably harvest them (cultural capital). We heard from our host, OSU Extension’s Dusti Linnell, about her work on Food Secure Tillamook County, a project that asked what true food security would look like. At Pitch and Plow Farms, we petted baby sheep, considered a very fine kale crop, and discussed marketing strategies. We shopped around Food Roots’ FarmTable storefront and took home two brimming crates of local vegetables, herbs, meat, cheese, milk, and bread (it takes a lot of intellectual, social, natural, built, and cultural capital to produce such beautiful food).

WealthWorks’ 8 capitals framework helped me see beyond the incredible challenges of building a community food system and to appreciate all of the richness and vitality that Tillamook County holds. Getting to experience such a vibrant food system alongside such thoughtful people was one highlight of my year with OCFSN.

Iowa State Trainings: Local Food Leader and Community Food Systems

What’s the training?

OCFSN is partnering with Iowa State University to bring their “Local Food Leader” and “Community Food Systems” trainings to Oregon this summer or early fall. They piloted the trainings in 10 states in 2018. They now want to come to our region.  More detailed descriptions for each one are linked as PDFs, but the basics are:

  • Local Food Leader is intended for beginning local food practitioners but open for anyone interested in food systems development and collaboration. This is a one-day workshop, followed by optional online modules that you take at your own pace. 
  • Community Food Systems is intended for intermediate levels of local food practitioners who are interested in the development of their community food system. This is a two-day workshop, followed by optional online modules that you take at your own pace.

So are we doing both or just one or what?

We need your help (via this survey) to decide. We can do one of three options:

  1. Just LFL (1 day)
  2. Just CFS (2 consecutive days)
  3. Both LFL and CFS (3 consecutive days)

What will it cost, and who is paying?

ISU has funding to cover all of their own costs and is waiving the usual registration fees for the in-person workshop.

The OCFSN Leadership Team is applying for funding to cover participants’ travel and lodging costs.

Participants will only need to pay for any online modules they choose to take afterwards (and ISU is giving us a 50% discount).

  • Local Food Leader has 4 online modules, which together will cost $150 (that includes the discount).
  • Community Food Systems has 6 online modules, which together will cost $275 (including the discount). Or you can select which ones you want (they range from $15 – $150).
  • Again, all modules are optional and come after the workshops, at participants’ own pace.

How many spots are there?

Local Food Leader can have up to 40 participants (1 day workshop).

Community Food Systems can have up to 20 participants (2-day workshop).

When is the training?

It’s up to us, based on our member availability.

The ISU team has offered us three date ranges in July, August, and September. On the survey, you will tell us which dates are best for you.

Where will the training be held?

Same: it’s up to us – based on where potential participants are located, we will choose a location that is most convenient for most of you.

What if I sign up now, and you choose a location or a date that I can’t do?

We’ll do our best to accommodate everyone. If you have to back out once location & date are chosen, we’ll understand.

Can I invite other people in my organization? What about partner organizations?

Yes. If we end up having way more people sign up than we have slots for, we’ll come back to you for help sorting it out.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are really important to OCFSN. Do these trainings address DEI at all?

Yes. The Local Food Leader workshop starts with “Equity: A Foundation to Our Work.”

The pdf about the Community Food Systems training does not have anything on it about equity.


  • ISU usually requires Local Food Leader before you can take Community Food Systems (they are being flexible for us), so they are assuming everyone starts with equity.
  • We learned through other sources that ISU has really strengthened the DEI component across both trainings, in response to feedback from their first year.
  • The ISU trainers know that this is a priority for OCFSN, and we will provide them a lot of info about OCFSN before the training.

OK, I’m interested. Now what?

Please fill out this survey asap, so we can finalize what/when/where this will happen and confirm it all with ISU.

If you want to invite others in your organization or partners, please send them this email with all the info and ask them ALSO to fill out the survey.

And because transparency is important…

What was the process for OCFSN deciding to do this with ISU?

  • The ISU trainers – Kaley Hohenshell and Courtney Long – reached out to me, Lauren Gwin, in March. They wanted to bring their trainings to the Pacific Northwest, and their supervisor, Craig Chase, knows me and thought our OSU Center would be a good host.
  • I collected info about the trainings and brought it to the OCFSN Leadership Team on 3/31. The LT was supportive and had more questions for ISU. I went back to ISU for answers, and Greg Holmes, Sara Miller, and I also had a call with a person at North Carolina State U who had gone through the training.
  • After the Convening, the Exec Council of the Leadership Team reviewed all the material and info and decided it was a good opportunity for OCFSN members and partners (even though many of you know a lot of this material/have had these experiences already, which I have told the ISU trainers). They also decided to raise $$ for travel support for members.

Introducing OCFSN’s New Member Services Coordinator

This is Lauren Johnson, your new Member Services Coordinator. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some of you in the past, and I’m so excited to be back in Oregon as OCFSN’s RARE Americorps.

Some of you may remember me from the conversations I led with several of the working groups last year. We talked about how public policy could help them further their goals as a working group. I also attended this past year’s Convening to share some of what I learned during those conversations.

Here’s a some more about me: I got a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, but my heart was always with food and farming, so I often explored those themes in my research. After college, I spent the winter farming in Costa Rica, and then came to Oregon for a RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) Americorps service position in Wallowa County in 2014. My job was to engage with different facets of the County’s local food system, from health care to farmers markets to schools to community gardening programs. I loved it. During that year, I had the opportunity to attend OCFSN’s first annual convening. I remember feeling so energized being surrounded by all of these incredible people and organizations working at the forefront of community food systems development. Not only were they implementing what was then fairly new and innovative programming to support community food systems, but they were also engaged in a difficult conversation about how to make that work more impactful. After another year of traveling in India, Nepal, the Netherlands, and Spain, I earned my graduate degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana and focused on food systems policy.

I chose to come back to Oregon to take the Member Services Coordinator position because I love interacting with this group of people. You do incredible work, and I’m so excited to support you.

Have a very happy fall,

Lauren Johnson
OCFSN Member Services Coordinator
[email protected]

Five Lessons for Communicating about Food Systems

Over the past year, the Oregon Community Food Systems Network has been working with Full Focus Communications on how to communicate about complex concepts (food systems work and collaborative networks) in a simple and compelling manner.

Full Focus Communications also conducted trainings for OCFSN members and local community stakeholders in the Portland Metro area, North East Oregon, and Southern Oregon.

Here are a few key lessons from those trainings.

Lesson 1: Start with purpose.

Effective messaging comes when an organization has clarity and unity around its purpose—the reason it exists. As you create or adopt messages for your organization, return to purpose — or as the Full Focus team says, “know the why.” Tell your audience why you commit to the work, how you go about doing the work, and what your programs or products are, in that order. Get specific and be inspiring.

As an example: Oregon Food Bank is motivated by the belief that all people deserve reliable access to healthy food (the why). Staff are addressing short term needs while building long-term resilience (the how). In practice, this looks like supplying food pantries, teaching gardening and cooking skill-building classes, advocating for fair policies, and organizing community food systems (the what).

What are the “why,” “how,” and “what” for your organization? Get clear on what drives your work, and consider that a brief, direct statement will be more powerful than a longer, overly detailed one.

Lesson 2: Identify your target audience.

Are you talking to long-time community members? Policy-makers? Business leaders? Your kids?

Your audience’s values and interests should determine the content and emotion of your messaging.

As an example, Rogue Farm Corps works both with new and retiring farmers, and applies distinct messaging strategies focused on their separate circumstances, needs and motivations.

Consider your specific audience, the message that will best reach them, the channels you will use to engage them (events? emails? personal contacts?), and then devise a strategy. Depending on your target audience, both the content of your message and the way you deliver it may significantly vary.

Lesson 3: Evoke feeling and emotions.

Messages that pull on heartstrings move people to action. People may not hear appeals to logic and practicality without a personal connection or an emotional response to your issues. So speak to the values and aspirations of your audience members. Perhaps your audience wants to raise children in the region and ensure their family legacy. Use sensory, descriptive language so that your audience can easily picture the outcome you suggest.

Be as specific as possible and refrain from using jargon.  In particular, use phrases like “food system” sparingly. Try more descriptive language like “all the people who grow, sell, prepare and eat food.” It’s longer, but also easier to understand. Jargon may be appropriate if you are communicating with people in the nonprofit or academic fields, and even then, ensure you have a common understanding.

Lesson 4: Empathize with your audience.

Try to understand the perspective of your audience, and any challenges or conflicts they may experience. Imagine receiving this message yourself. What would stop you from responding?

If your audience consists of time-strapped parents you are hoping will volunteer for a program or event, how can you streamline your message so it’s immediately clear what you are asking and make it as easy as possible for them to plug in?Extend this empathy beyond your communications into the actual ask as well.

Lesson 5: Focus on solutions.

Describing the problems you face reinforces feelings of powerlessness. Full Focus found that people agree on problems and values, but may not think change is possible. Focus on solutions so that they are inspired to join your cause. One solution that Full Focus highlights: a resilient, diverse network.

OCFSN organizations target different food systems issues, operate different programs, work in different sectors, and live in different regions. What members have in common is a dedication to community resilience, connection and stewardship.

Take time to learn more about other OCFSN members and the efforts they are leading around the state. Be curious about what audiences and messages you may have in common. Profiles and contact information for members are posted to the OCFSN website. OCFSN members are more effective when we recognize and support each other.

To support OCFSN, the Full Focus team generated a set of resources for OCFSN members, including a Guiding Framework for OCFSN communications, and OCFSN messaging platform with suggestions for talking about the network, and a Food Systems messaging platform for talking about farm and food issues. These documents can be found in the Member Resources page.

Community Food Systems at the Legislature: OCFSN member reports from the 2017 legislative session

Anya Moucha and the OCFSN Policy Working Group

For some OCFSN members, policy and advocacy are at the heart of what they do. For others, it can be hard to know where to start. To help the rest of us learn what this work looks like, we asked four OCFSN members to share their experience at the Oregon Legislature this year: Nellie McAdams, Rogue Farm Corps; Megan Kemple, Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network; Ivan Maluski, Friends of Family Farmers; and Phillip Kennedy-Wong, Oregon Food Bank.

Were you active at the Legislature this session? Share your experience.  

Nellie McAdams, Rogue Farm Corps

From her start as a legislative assistant, Nellie McAdams has been active at the state legislature since 2008. Now, in her role as Rogue Farm Corps’ Farm Preservation Program Director, McAdams helps the organization advocate for policies that promote farmland succession and access by beginning farmers, and preserve farmland for future generations.

In this last session, McAdams primarily worked on HB 3249, also known as the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program. OAHP funds farm succession, a study of Oregon’s estate tax, and voluntary conservation programs that help with farm succession, like working lands easements. Similar bills had been in the works for six years. The current version was developed by diverse stakeholders over the last two years and was vetted through seven listening sessions around the state.

Ultimately, the program received nearly $200,000 to establish the program’s commission and rules, but unfortunately it was not allotted enough funding for project implementation. Supporters will be looking for this funding in future legislative sessions.

McAdams also worked with fellow OCFSN member organization 1,000 Friends of Oregon to oppose two bills that promised to erode land use policies in Oregon: SB 432 and SB 644. While SB 432 died, SB 644 passed, allowing mining as an outright use on farmland in Eastern Oregon counties.

Stakeholders pose in front of a tractor in support of the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program.
OAHP Lobby Day in June 2017. Photo courtesy of Nellie McAdams.

“Oregon currently has a model land use system, and we need to be diligent to prevent it from being weakened. 1,000 Friends of Oregon serves a critical role as the state’s leading advocate for this program” noted McAdams.

But McAdams pointed out that the work isn’t over. “The programs we create are only as good as the outcomes we can demonstrate to the legislature in the next session. We need to continue to make the case for the money to be allocated to these programs in future sessions.”

The legislature can be overwhelming, and knowing what bills to track can be time consuming, but as McAdams noted “the beauty of a network is that everyone plays a different role. There are many ways that organizations can support legislation, from social media to submitting testimony.”

Megan Kemple, Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network

The Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network (OFSSGN) has been involved in advocating for state legislative policy since 2007. Megan Kemple, the Director of OFSSGN, noted that this year required extra involvement from the OFSSGN because the organization took the lead for most of the session this year, a role that Upstream Public Health has played in the past. The OFSSGN’s priority was to pass and maintain funding for Oregon’s Farm to School Bill (HB 2038).

Funding for the bill was unclear for most of the session. In the last days of the session, the bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously with full funding!

The bill allocates $4.5 million (the same amount as last session) for schools to purchase Oregon grown and processed foods and for food, agriculture, and garden based education. The intent of the program is to increase school districts’ purchases of Oregon grown and processed products, and so this round, the bill was strengthened with an amendment which does not allow schools to use these grant funds to purchase products they were purchasing prior to participating in the grant program, with some exceptions.

“The legislature heard from us loud and clear, with personal stories from all over the state, that this program is valued by Oregonians and makes a difference for our kids, farmers and communities!” said Kemple. “Support from our partner organizations and stakeholders was critical.”

Kemple will now begin working on supporting the Oregon Department of Education with implementing the policy, which has some new rules. She believes it’s important that the legislature continues to fund the Farm to School Grant Program into the future.

Ivan Maluski, Friends of Family Farmers

Each legislative session, Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) tracks or works on numerous farm and food related bills. This session, some of the group’s priority bills were successful, while others were met with mixed results.

A bill to allow on-farm production and sales of hard cider and new agritourism opportunities on farms with at least 15 acres of apple or pear orchards (SB 677), was passed into law. And HB 3116, a bill to allow the farm-direct sales of ‘ungraded’ eggs or under consignment at farmers markets as long as they are properly labeled was also passed into law.

Two students hold up a sign in support of HB 2038.
‘Family Farms Mean Business’ rally in April of 2017. Photo by Megan Kemple.

Friends of Family Farmers also worked in support of the Farm to School bill, which got $4.5 million for the next biennium, a big win in Oregon’s very tough funding climate this year.

However, other bills were less successful.

The Oregon State University Statewide Public Service Programs, which include Extension and Agricultural Experiment Stations important for farmers of various types, needed $9.4 million to maintain current service levels. In the end, these programs received $5.6 million, a shortfall which OSU believes could result in the loss of seventeen full time positions.

Another top priority for Friends of Family Farmers was a beginning farmer tax credit bill (HB 2085), intended to encourage landowners to enter long term leases with beginning farmers and to help with farm succession.

But in an effort to save the state money, the final ‘omnibus’ tax credit bill the Legislature passed actually eliminated or curtailed a number of existing tax credits instead of adding new ones. One legislator remarked it was a rare tax credit bill that actually generated revenue for the state instead of reducing it.

To find money for the beginning farmer tax credit and other programs, Friends of Family Farmers pushed to reform or eliminate a manure digester tax credit that primarily goes to the state’s largest dairy farm, linking continued funding for this credit to the need for better regulation of air emissions from the state’s largest dairies. While another FoFF priority bill to create an air emissions program for large dairies died in committee, the ‘bovine manure tax credit’ was allowed to stay in place until the end of 2021, with a cap set at $10 million per biennium.

Looking back on the session, FoFF’s Maluski said it is frustrating to think that the state could budget $10 million per biennium for manure management aimed primarily at helping the state’s largest dairy operation, but that more wasn’t done to help out beginning farmers.

But, he noted, “we’ll be back again with the beginning farmer tax credit proposal, and if the state’s budget situation turns around, I’ll be much more optimistic about its future prospects.”

Phillip Kennedy-Wong, Oregon Food Bank

In its mission to end hunger, Oregon Food Bank doesn’t just distribute food to local agencies across the state, it also addresses the root causes of hunger through policy advocacy.

Phillip Kennedy-Wong is an advocate for Oregon Food Bank at the state legislature.  For the last six years, he has lobbied on legislation that is part of the food bank’s broader effort to root out hunger. This involves tracking a diverse set of issues such as food systems, affordable housing, healthcare access, welfare programs, transportation access to jobs and services, and other inequities that lead to food insecurity.

This particular session in light of declining state revenue, Oregon Food Bank focused on securing funds for basic food services. Oregon’s economy improved over the past few years, but personal income growth is not keeping up with the cost of living and thus has not translated into greater food security. The number of Oregonians relying on food assistance remain at recession-levels. The Oregon Hunger Response Fund is a critical state program to Oregon’s network of 20 regional food banks’ ability to distribute food cost-effectively.

Oregon Food Bank educated lawmakers about how the state’s affordable housing crisis has led to higher food insecurity. In addition to more funds to the Emergency Housing Account/State Homeless Assistance Program for the 2017-19 biennium, the Oregon Legislature increased the state’s investment in the Oregon Hunger Response Fund to $4.2 million.

Oregon Food Bank believes the Legislature must understand that addressing systemic inequities is critical and necessary to root out the causes of hunger, specifically for those stigmatized by race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, geography and other devices that deter people from meeting their basic needs to live.

Thanks to our OCFSN colleagues for sharing their experiences during the session. If you have a story to share about your organization’s efforts and experience at the Legislature this year, please let us know.

What does it take to scale up to wholesale?

In 1990, Steve and Suzi Fry started farming on a handful of acres in the Rogue Valley. Now, over 25 years later, their operation has expanded to over 90 acres of vegetable, flowers, and berries being grown across the region.

As their acreage increased, the farm reached capacity for their washing and packing house. When the family began to look into options to improve their infrastructure, they realized that this was a growing problem for many people in the wholesale market who wanted to grow their business. With this in mind, the family started to think about developments that would not only help their farm, but also the larger local farm community.

The Fry Family Farm Food Hub is a recently completed a 1.2 million dollar project to develop an on-farm produce-washing and sorting line, cooler and freezer space, loading dock, commercial kitchen, and retail space. Family members Ashley and Amber Fry stressed the importance of planning to determine the appropriate design, capacities, and scale of the facility to ensure full utilization.

This farm was one of the stops on a recent tour hosted by OCFSN’s “Wholesale Market Development” committee. Participants learned about opportunities and challenges for farmers trying to scale from direct to wholesale markets, and for distributors and retailers trying to source more local products.

Tour stops included two local farms (Fry Family Farm and Wandering Roots Farm), two handling facilities (Fry Family Farm Food Hub and Naumes, Inc.) and one retail store (Cartwright’s Valley Meat Company).

Panel discussions were also held with wholesale distributors (Charlie’s Produce, Organically Grown Company, and Rogue Natural Foods), retail food buyers (Ashland Food Co-op, Natural Grocers, and Ray’s Marketplace), and farmers exploring wholesale markets (Blue Fox Farms, Rainshadow Organics, and Shasta View Inc.)
Speakers on the distributor and retail panels affirmed that there is growing consumer demand for local products, but it can be challenging finding the right fit for both buyers and farm suppliers. As Mike Nuebeck from Organically Grown Company said:

“Selling to wholesale is the graduate school of farming. The requirements are the highest and the returns are the lowest. You have to have skills to make it work.”

Issues of concern raised by panelists included the quality of produce, consistent supply, meeting requirements for food safety, and the importance of cosmetic appearance. Sarahlee Lawrence, from Rainshadow Organics, noted that it is a real struggle to have enough “perfect” produce. On average, this is only 20% of their total crop.

Farmers noted the importance of telling their story and using websites and social media to enable a connection with the end buyer, even with distribution.

Both farmers and food processors also called out increasing challenges in meeting labor needs.

Local organizers for the tour included THRIVE and Rogue Valley Farm to School. Support for the event came from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Corvallis Environmental Center.

Tracy Harding of Rogue Valley Farm to School, a recent graduate of the Food Hub Management certificate program at the University of Vermont, put together the following list of resources for people interested in learning more about food hubs:

The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing
Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned from the Field
Running a Food Hub: A Business Operations Guide
Food Hubs – Solving Local: Small-Farm Aggregators Scale Up With Larger Buyers
USDA Food Value Chains Creating Shared Value to Enhance Marketing Success
Fresh Connections: The Pilot Season of a Rural Food Hub
Best Practices Guidebook: Food Hub Vendor Manual
Best Practices Guidebook: Food Hub Grower Manual
Sacramento Region Food Hub Feasibility Analysis
Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois
Running a Food Hub: Assessing Financial Viability

Wallowa County participates in FEAST program developed by Oregon Food Bank

Food systems are complex and are composed of considerations in health, nutrition, food insecurity, production, distribution, and economic opportunities. In Wallowa County, a community of less than 8,000 people, members of the Wallowa County Food System Council have been looking into how these factors interact in their region and have been working since 2011 to create an equitable, local food system that promotes economic development, community development, and sustainable agriculture.

Noticing there were gaps in the system and wanting to bring the community together to address these gaps, the Wallowa County Food System Council applied to participate in FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together), a program of Oregon Food Bank that helps communities mobilize around improving their local food systems. This spring, Tracy Gagnon, a Community Food Systems Developer with the Oregon Food Bank will be conducting twelve FEAST events in eight other communities around the state. This model has been used for eight years in nearly 100 communities across Oregon.

On Saturday, March 4th, forty-five people from around Wallowa County devoted their Saturday to discussing ways to improve the food system of the county. In attendance were local producers, ranchers, government officials, small business owners, nonprofit staff, community volunteers, and interested citizens. Through a series of facilitated conversations, they visualized their ideal community food system and brainstormed strategies and projects to achieve this vision.


In the afternoon, participants sorted themselves into five working groups to have deeper conversations -about some of their proposed strategies. These topic groups included education, youth, Farmer’s Market growth, resource sharing, and economic development projects.

The scale of the strategies proposed by these groups varied widely. The economic development group’s discussion developing a regional brand for marketing and supporting value-added products by building a regional food hub. Meanwhile the Farmer’s Market group proposed establishing a collaborative booth, allowing individuals to sell small amounts of their produce with the hope that they will eventually be able to grow into a booth of their own.

This year, for the first time, communities that participate in FEAST will also be awarded $4,000 to help kick start their ideas and bring them into fruition. In Wallowa County, the first $1,000 of this grant was awarded to the Enterprise Head Start Garden Expansion and to the Magic Garden Day Camp at a follow up event on March 8th.

According to Tracy Gagnon, the hope is that the conversations started at these events turn into continued work. In fact, the Wallowa County Food System Council grew out of the region’s first FEAST event, held back in 2011.

The Oregon Food Bank is a backbone support organization of OCFSN. OCFSN members, Ann Bloom of Oregon State Extension of Wallowa County and Sara Miller of Northeast Oregon Economic Development District helped organize the FEAST along with other local partners.  Miller is currently serving as chair of OCFSN’s Leadership Team. OCFSN’s Member Services Coordinator, Anya Moucha, was also in attendance at the FEAST.

“It was a wonderful event to witness,” said Moucha, “Not only were there a number of OCFSN member organizations in the room, but the community raised a few key issues that we’ve been trying to tackle as a network, including wholesale market development.”

The event was sponsored by Oregon State University Extension, the Magic Garden Project, Wallowa County Food System Council, and the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD).