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Oregon’s organic industry honors its own at awards luncheon

A keynote speaker urges organic producers to step up and get more involved in research and legislation.
Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on September 19, 2017 3:00PM

Last changed on September 19, 2017 3:27PM

Garry Stephenson, director of the Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems at Oregon State University, was keynote speaker at the annual Oregon Organic Coalition’s award dinner.

Oregon Organic Coalition

Garry Stephenson, director of the Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems at Oregon State University, was keynote speaker at the annual Oregon Organic Coalition’s award dinner.

PORTLAND — Garry Stephenson, director of the Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems at Oregon State University had some advice recently for the state’s organic producers.

Stephenson, keynote speaker at the annual Oregon Organic Coalition’s awards luncheon held in Portland, said organic producers need to be at the table when legislation affecting organic systems is debated. They also should be working directly with ag experts at OSU and should be involved in the upcoming search for a new dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, he said. Dean Dan Arp announced he is retiring in 2018.

In an interview after his talk at the event, Stephenson said the continued market growth of organic products, and the need to support it, should be self-evident.

“I was there to advocate for more research money for organic farming,” Stephenson said. “I’m surprised I have to ask. We should be investing in it more deeply.”

Oregon and the West Coast are organic production hot spots. California leads the nation in organic production value, Washington is second and Oregon is fourth with $269 million in organic sales in 2016 — a $32 million jump in two years, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

University and industry funding for organic research projects “makes the engine run,” but boot-level research also takes place “on thousands and thousands of farms every day,” Stephenson said. “All that problem-solving that occurs there is the foundation for advancing these farming systems.”

Stephenson said farmers always look upon other farmers with respect, and the friction between conventional and organic production doesn’t happen at that level. Rather, it is farming systems and such issues as genetic engineering and herbicide drift that drive a wedge between producers.

“The battles we get into in ag are often about technology, not science,” Stephenson said.

Individuals and businesses were honored during the Oregon Organic Coalition’s annual awards luncheon. Recipients included operators on both sides of the urban-rural divide, such as a Portland brewpub and a livestock auction yard in Lebanon, a small Willamette Valley town.

Awards go to individuals or businesses that demonstrate “innovation in organic practices, service to the industry, expansion of organic business opportunities and overall achievement in the state’s organic industry,” according to a coalition news release.

Winners this year were:

Retailer: Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland. Founded by Christian and Brandie Ettinger, the brewery uses locally sourced hops that are certified organic and certified Salmon Safe. It’s also a Certified B Corporation.

Livestock Farm: Lebanon Auction Yard, Lebanon. The facility dates to the late 1940s and was purchased by the Cowart family in 1987. It’s considered one of the most modern livestock facilities in Oregon, capable of processing a single animal or a herd. In 2016 it marketed 15,000 head of cattle plus sheep, goats and pigs. It was certified in 2015 as an organic livestock handler.

Organic Certifier: Steller Certification Services, Philomath. The company, founded in 2002, certifies 188 organic operations nationally. It also provides organic certification services to biodynamic farmers and processors, who have an additional set of standards.

Scientist: Ramon Seidler, a former professor of microbiology at Oregon State University. He’s also a retired senior research scientist and GMO bio-safety team leader with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and prepared the EPA’s first bio-safety plan for evaluating genetically engineered microbes and plants.

Processor: Oregon’s Wild Harvest, Redmond. The business uses innovative composting methods and “regenerative” farming to sequester carbon, saves its own seeds from products it grows and is non-GMO, organic and biodynamic certified. Ten percent of its land is set aside as pollinator habitat.

Wholesaler: Bridges Organic Produce, Portland. The distribution company works with mid-size growers in particular, linking them with consumers and pursuing a business model that allows all stakeholders to make informed decisions and wise investments, according to the company website. It partners with organizations such as Fair Trade USA and the Sustainable Food Trade Association “to promote environmental responsibility, sustainable communities and the organic produce trade.”

Crop Farm: Groundwork Organics, Junction City. Founded in 2000, the farm sells organic fruit, vegetables and flowers at seven farmers’ markets, its own roadside stand, to 450 CSA customers and to restaurants, natural food stores and wholesalers. In 2016, Groundwork donated 60,000 pounds of fresh produce to Food for Lane County.


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