The Oregon Pasture Network: What’s in Store for Farmers and Eaters

By Lindsay Trant, OPN Program Manager

In June 2016, FoFF launched the Oregon Pasture Network (OPN). The program connects Oregon’s pasture-based producers to each other as well as resources and expert assistance on sustainable grazing systems that are healthier for animals, the environment, and their farms. The OPN also connects these producers to the growing crowd of eaters who care about the source of their food and want to purchase their meat, eggs, and dairy from pasture-raised animals.

Two years later, there are now nearly 60 members of the Oregon Pasture Network and the benefits keep growing. Every member of the OPN is listed in the OPN Product Guide for free, allowing Oregonians to locate and purchase products raised in a more environmentally sound manner, on pasture. We hope to keep evolving this Product Guide as the program grows. Most recently, we made it easier for shoppers to find pasture raised meat, eggs, and dairy directly from OPN producers in their area.

In addition to upgrading the Product Guide, we are organizing a series of InFARMation events in the Portland area through the Fall of 2018 for a deep look into the benefits of raising animals on pasture – for the environment, for farmers, for animal welfare, for consumers, and for your health. You can find details and a full list of the InFARMations here. Our next will be on the topic of Pasture Raised Poultry on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6-9 pm at the Lagunitas Community Room.

For farmers, being a member of the OPN means access to  a number of benefits. We sponsor classes to provide expert assistance for producers dedicated to continually improving their pasture-based systems and want to deepen their understanding of the art and science of responsible grazing. Last year we worked with Dr. Woody Lane of Lane Livestock Services to offer an 8-week in-depth forage and pasture management course and OPN members got a 50% discount on course fees. One OPN member who took the course said that the course inspired him “to get out and do some of things I already knew needed to be doing. Case in point: get an updated soil test! It really helped me up my pasture management game and it started paying off in the first season.”

Members of the OPN enjoy a pasture walk together in Beavercreek.

We also provide a place where pastured producers can get together and learn from one another. We host a producer listserv to share tips and information, and we launched a Potluck and Pasture Walk series this summer, hosted by different members of the OPN. The first of these events was hosted in Beavercreek in August, and about 20 producers came out to learn from one another and talk pasture. Since pastures can vary from place to place and seasonally, these walks will continue in different parts of the state.

Our long-term vision for the Network is to include every Oregon producer who raises animals in a pasture-based system that places a high value on the land, animal welfare, and the well-being of their local communities. We recently opened up the membership to include ‘aggregators,’ those  who sell products from other pasture-based producers solely, or in addition to their own. Interested aggregators can now apply to join the OPN here.

If you are a producer interested in joining the Oregon Pasture Network, you can read more about our program and apply to join (for free!) here. Please reach out if you have any questions. You can email us at OPN@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or call us at (503) 581-7124.

InFARMation September 25: Pasture-raised Poultry

Please join us for our next InFARMation at Lagunitas Public House on Tuesday evening, September 25th, from 6-9pm.  Our topic will be Pasture-raised Poultry, and we will get to the bottom of such questions like why pasture-raised poultry costs more, heritage breeds vs. Cornish Cross hens, what the state and federal rules are about chicken processing, why we can only get pasture-raised turkey once a year (and we will have opportunities to sign up for our 2018 Thanksgiving turkey on site!), and why it’s so hard to get pasture-raised chicken and turkey in restaurants.

Our speakers will feature farmers Geoff Scott and John Mathia of Marion Acres Farm.  Their farm story is a fascinating look into what it takes to create a poultry farm from a dream and a vision and a whole lot of hard work.  A. Whole. Lot. Their success story includes starting with 32 broiler chicks just a few years back to building and opening a ODA processing facility on-farm just this summer! They are one of the only local farms providing pasture-raised chicken to Portland restaurants.

Grand Central Bakery strives to provide local and pasture-raised meat to their customers, and has had to face issues of scale, demand, state law and processing issues as they’ve grown from a small cafe & bakery to having ten stores over two states. Piper Davis, co-owner, and Laura Ohm, product director, will give us a behind the scenes look at what sustainable sourcing can and should look like, what the barriers are, and how we as customers can make a difference.

Justin Ashby is meat monger for Flying Fish Company and owner of Tidal Boar Foods, and has worked for several of the higher end groceries in town behind the meat counter. He can speak to us about the challenges for grocery stores in stocking pasture raised meat and about what kinds of questions we should be asking to both find pasture-raised meat by the cut and to encourage grocery stores to offer these kinds of responsibly raised proteins. He has even offered to make a video on how to break down a whole chicken into parts for us.

Doors open at 6pm, speakers start at 6:30. This is a free, all-ages event.  Beer sales will be donated to Friends of Family Farmers.  Please note – food options will be limited: Pasture-raised pork rolls, Spinach and Feta hand pies, quinoa and kale salad. In addition to Lagunitas beer, there will be sodas and water. Parking is on-street, so leave yourselves a bit of extra time for that – folks can be dropped off at the side door on NE 3rd if you’d like. If you would like to volunteer for this or any of our future InFARMations, or if you have any questions, please email Michele@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org.

Save the Date for future InFARMs at Lagunitas Public House: October 9th: Pasture-raised Pork & November 13th: Grass-fed Dairy