Oregon agriculture is a big tent. From the smallest acreage in Western Oregon to the largest ranch in Eastern Oregon, from the newest hemp farm in Central Oregon to the multi-generational grass seed operation in the Willamette Valley, and whether they follow conventional, organic or even biodynamic practices, they are all Oregon farmers.
They feed, clothe and shelter all of us.
More than 200 crops are grown across the state. Combined with the solar and wind power generation, Oregon farmers — and their counterparts across the country — are on the leading edge of 21st century agriculture.
Oregon agriculture is an on-the-ground celebration of that diversity. To travel from one corner of the state to other is an extraordinary experience. Large and small, nursery, livestock, timber and crops — irrigated and non-irrigated — each farm and ranch is an example of how ingenuity, hard work and expertise can coax a crop from the ground and nurture livestock.
Every one of Oregon’s more than 38,500 farms and ranches is evidence of all that is good about agriculture.
It saddens us, then, when we hear about some groups that want to draw lines through agriculture and divide it. They want to pit small against large, organic against conventional — every day, it seems, new lines are being drawn in the soil.
And we don’t know why. We don’t understand why, in the viewpoint of a few, some types of agriculture are “good” and other types aren’t. They will tell you it has to do with their standards, and that’s fine, until they try to impose those standards on everyone else.
When Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, was first appointed to the Oregon Board of Agriculture four years ago, these groups started drawing their lines. They argued that the Boardman, Ore., farm was too big. It’s actually several farms — three dairies, row crops, feed crops and a compost operation. It also takes waste and wind and produces sustainable electricity. Many of the things they do are state-of-the-art. Threemile Canyon has even developed a “closed loop” that allows byproducts to be constantly recycled and reused.
Oh, yes, it’s also profitable.
In short, it is an example of how diversification works in favor of a farm, whether it’s 93,000 acres, as is Threemile Canyon, or 9 acres. If done wisely, diversification will flatten the revenue roller coaster and assure positive cash flow.
Other farmers, whether their operations are large or small, would do well to study what Three Mile Canyon has accomplished and consider how those lessons can be applied at different scales.
Recently, Gov. Kate Brown reappointed Myers to another term on the Board of Agriculture. That was the right thing to do. He brings an unmatched level of expertise and experience to the board, which advises the state Department of Agriculture.
For the record, seven appointed members of the board must be farmers or ranchers who represent different segments of agriculture, and two members represent consumers. The 10th member is the chair of the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. That’s according to state law.
Along with the viewpoints of the rest of the board, whose membership represents a wide variety of farming operations, Myers’ viewpoint should be sought out and welcomed.