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

FoFF in the Field 2017

Ever wonder what the life of a Field Organizer at FoFF is like? Well, this summer I traveled over 1,500 miles visiting farms and attending events. Being the Field Organizer, I am the main staff person “in the field” (you may have come across my posts on Instagram: @foffinthefield). It is one of the best aspects of my job—venturing from Ashland to Tillamook, to Beavercreek, to Bend and beyond—talking to farmers and ranchers, hearing their stories, and learning about some of the incredible farms and ranches all across Oregon.

The pins on this map represent all of my travel destinations since June 2017. The blue pins are farms and ranches visited for Oregon Pasture Network and the red pins are events visited while tabling for FoFF. If we didn’t make it to your neck of the woods this summer, let us know so we can plan to next summer! Send me an email: lindsay@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org
Dairy goats at Fraga Farmstead Creamery clearing blackberry brambles.

I’ve lived in Oregon for 10 years, and thought I’d explored all the trails I could get my feet on and all the rivers I could wade into, fishing rod in hand. But I have never seen the side of our state that I experienced this summer. The roads I took this summer provided me with a unique and hopeful picture. I stood on ground that was once inside of a volcano and watched goats and chickens grazing on a wetland restoration project on top of a mountain outside Ashland at sunset. I watched goats eating blackberry brambles and clearing Christmas trees to turn a Christmas tree farm back into what it once was: A small, diversified, food-producing family farm. In the outskirts of Beaverton I got a lesson on using a no-till drill to renovate what was once a wheat field into luscious, diverse, forage that will be available for cows and pigs to graze on in the coming years.

A beautiful glimpse of wetland restoration at Willow-Witt Ranch near Ashland.

The side of agriculture that I get to see during my farm visits is largely regenerative, restorative, and responsible. I get to travel all over the state learning from amazing farmers and ranchers that are working hard to provide food in incredibly innovative manners. They work with their land, their communities, and their animals to create a vibrant and diverse food system throughout Oregon. The growing number of producers that have joined our Oregon Pasture Network (OPN) are great examples of this. You can read more about the work our OPN Members do here. and can support them directly via our recently published OPN Product Guide.

Recently germinated forage seedlings from the no-till drill used at Croakers Crossing Farm outside Beaverton.

On the other side of my role with FoFF, I work with young and aspiring farmers; the ones who dream of continuing the work of other producers before them, working to regenerate our food system. Over the course of the summer, I attended and presented at events put on by organizations with similar missions to ours. I showed beginning farmers how to use Oregon Farm Link (OFL) to find land to start – or expand – their farming operations, and recruited landholders to list their land on OFL in order to find someone to keep the land in agricultural production.

Beginning farmers exploring our land-linking site, Oregon Farm Link.

In so many ways, I am incredibly lucky to do the work that I do. This important work is made possible because of the generous donations of our supporters and funders — thank you! If you’d like to support the continuation of this work, please donate to FoFF today.

Looking ahead, beginning in early 2018, we will begin our newest round of Farmer & Rancher Listening Sessions throughout the state. I hope you’ll participate and come introduce yourself to me!

— Lindsay Trant, Field Organizer, Friends of Family Farmers

 

Cows grazing on luscious pasture at Rickety Bridge Ranch near Redmond.
Chickens at Helios Farm grazing and enjoying a nice hilltop view outside Yoncalla.
Another beautiful sight – pasture at Allen Cattle Co. near Sutherlin.
Cattle grazing on a pasture at Black River Cattle Co. tucked in the woods outside Eagle Creek.

 

 

 

Oregon Pasture Network – Update on Farm Visits and Things to Come – June 2017

Lindsay Trant with an Alpine goat at Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland, OR.

For those of you who don’t know me yet, I’m Lindsay and I’m the Program Coordinator for the Oregon Pasture Network (OPN). I have recently started full-time with Friends of Family Farmers and have been busy getting the ball rolling with OPN after a long, wet spring.

From the left: OPN Advisory Committee member Gus Liszka of Naked Acres Farm and David Morgan of Froggy Bottom Farm in Beavercreek, Oregon.

These farm and ranch visits have not only been fun, but they have been informative for everyone involved. It is not only a chance for OPN applicants to pick the brains of our Advisory Committee members, it is also a chance for the Committee members and me to learn a thing or two as well. Even our most experienced Committee members are able to learn from visiting pasture in different parts of Oregon and seeing how other producers have dealt with their individual challenges. A significant theme throughout our visits is that no two pastures are the same. Each region of Oregon has its own specific climate and different types of forage that succeed in that climate. Our Network is greatly enhanced and expanded through these visits.

Be sure to look for these “Proud Member” signs where you purchase your meat, dairy, or other animal products!

As the current round of farm visits winds down, we can shift our focus to the other projects in store for OPN. In early June, we sent out “Proud Member” signs to our current Partners so that they would be more identifiable at farmers markets and farm stands. We also had a lot of fun throwing a Square Dance and Benefit at the ZCBJ Hall in Scio, featuring the Slippery Slope String Band and Caller Woody Lane—thank you to everyone who came out to support OPN!

In the coming months, we will be launching additional marketing and networking tools to support our OPN Pasture Partners such as a members-only OPN listserv, a first-of-its-kind statewide pasture-raised product directory, and scheduling pasture walks for our Partners to ask questions and share knowledge amongst each other. There is a lot to do with OPN, and I am excited for every step and look forward to meeting more pasture-based livestock producers all across Oregon. If you are a pasture-based producer in Oregon and are interested in joining OPN, apply today! Our application can be found here and questions can be sent to opn @ friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or you can call us at (503) 581-7124.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in Scio and danced their support for the Oregon Pasture Network!

 

 

 

The Oregon Pasture Network is Officially Launched!

Farmers and consumers alike haveoregon pasture-smaller shown a growing interest in humane, environmentally friendly meat, egg and dairy products. Consumers want to buy them and farmers want to produce them. With growing concerns about factory farming practices and its health and environmental impacts, pasture-raised animal husbandry holds a lot of appeal. Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) aims to support these burgeoning interests and connections through their newly-launched initiative: the Oregon Pasture Network (OPN).

OPN Farmer, Jon Bansen, and family

This statewide network will support the growth of pasture-based farming in Oregon. The OPN is a community of farmers, ranchers, food business owners and consumers who share similar values around the way food should be produced. They believe that raising animals on pasture, rather than in confinement, is the most sustainable, humane way to produce animal products.   When asked why he feels the network is important, Jon Bansen, member of OPN’s Farmer Advisory Committee and Organic Valley Co-op producer, said simply “Pasturing is important to our planet. I believe it is the one farming practice that will aid in our fight against global warming through carbon sequestration.”

9FC21BEF-5969-4CB8-A2BB-61A206C4F61A
Jon Carter, OPN Farmer, of Jo Le Farms

The OPN will help these committed farmers by connecting them to each other for networking and support, connecting them to existing resources and expert assistance, and by promoting them to consumers. One exciting way that FoFF intends to do this is by creating Oregon’s first-ever, statewide pastured producers’ directory so that consumers and food business owners can find the sort of meat, eggs and dairy they are seeking.

1965498_10202649064181812_283396840_o
Gus and Margot Liszka, OPN Farmers, of Naked Acres

The Oregon Pasture Network is the newest iteration of FoFF’s popular “Pro Pasture” campaign, launched in 2013, which centered on encouraging farm-direct purchasing and farm-to-table restaurant connections to support pasture-based livestock producers. The OPN will provide new and improved support to Oregon’s dedicated pasture-based livestock producers through membership-based activities, educational opportunities, networking and market promotion. More information is available on the OPN webpage or by calling 503-581-7124, or emailing OPN @ friendsoffamilyfarmers.org.