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Small farm operators seek profitability

Small farmers look at ways to make their operations profitable.

By Patty Mamula

For the Capital Press

Published on February 28, 2014 5:06PM

Patty Mamula/For the Capital Press
The panel discussion on

Patty Mamula/For the Capital Press The panel discussion on "Advanced Farmers' Markets: New Ideas for a New Era" at the recent Oregon State University Small Farms Conference was packed with more than 125 participants looking for ways to improve their markets. From left are Kathleen Swayze from the Calapooia Food Alliance; Dave Adamshick, social media coordinator and blog editor for the Portland Farmers' Market; Dave Johnson, market and events coordinator for an economic development association in Springfield; and Andy Fisher, the moderator, from Community Food Security Coalition.

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Corvallis, Ore. — One of the focuses of the recent Small Farms Conference at Oregon State University was profitability.

Laura Masterson, who runs 47th Avenue Farm with up to 50 acres of annual vegetable production, started 20 years ago on a double lot in Southeast Portland. In the beginning, she was passionate about food and assumed the money would follow.

Her energy and focus has shifted to financial viability.

Over the past five years she analyzed how much money various crops brought in. She found, for instance, that carrots are highly profitable.

“If you don’t know what’s going on at your farm you can’t be successful,” she said.

Profitability for her means farmers can pay their workers and themselves well. She pays all her workers minimum wage.

“Five years ago I could only afford intern apprentices who received a $600 stipend,” she said.

Beth Hoinacki and her husband bought 20 acres in Philomath 10 years ago and have been slowly improving its infrastructure. This will be their first season in full production at Goodfoot Farm.

“We decided we didn’t want to sacrifice our family for the farm,” said Hoinacki. Profitability for her means the farm has to support the family and has to be enjoyable.

However, “It does not have to be our sole source of income,” she said.

Marketing sessions focused on farmers’ markets, food stamps, farm stands and schools and hospitals.

Dave Adamshick handles social media promotion for the Portland Farmers’ Market. He encouraged all markets and gropwers to have a Facebook page that tells the public these things: who you are, the location, hours and contact information.

“Make it easy for people to find you,” he said.

Social media are important because they can help create demand for a market and it opens two-way conversation, he said.

“When people feel like they can comment they become more involved, part of the community,” he said.



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