June 9, 2011

Nella Parks, Oregon Rural Action or 541-975-2411

Growing Local Food Business in Eastern Oregon

This summer a new project is bringing together local producers, organizations and others to continue building our local food and agricultural system. Oregon Rural Action was recently awarded a $24,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust for a Growing Local Food Business Initiative.

This project offers opportunities for local farmers, ranchers and food processors to enhance their local farm products businesses and marketing in Eastern Oregon. It will also help institutional buyers, individuals, restaurants and others in the region access and develop more commerce with Eastern Oregon farm and food businesses.

The goals of this initiative are:

  1. To increase access to locally grown food in Eastern Oregon communities,
  2. To increase the number of farmers in Eastern Oregon selling their products to schools, hospitals, restaurants and farmers’ market customers, and
  3. To help the community support existing and beginning farmers.

Oregon Rural Action is currently surveying local producers and processors to develop a program of workshops, trainings, local field trips, one-on-one support and other activities to best meet the needs of local food and agricultural businesses.

Likely workshops and trainings include online marketing with Facebook, FoodHub and iFarm, as well as selling to institutions, holistic financial planning, finding and using interns, succession planning,  and rules and regulations.

The first Growing Local Food Business training will be held on June 15 from 6 to 9 pm at the OSU Extension Service in Island City. ORA is assisting Northeast Oregon Economic Development District in a reprise of their popular Food Business Development workshop on marketing, licensing and current food regulation.

Health Inspectors from Union County and the Oregon Department of Agriculture will present information and answer questions about sale of local food products in retail, farm direct, or farmer’s markets. Pre-registration is required. The cost of the workshop is $30 and scholarships are available. To register, or for scholarship information, contact Sara Miller at 541 426 3598, or

Previously the Meyer Memorial Trust supported Oregon Rural Action’s work to develop Farm to School programs in Union County. Through their Farm to School work ORA has found that local farmers face many barriers in selling to local institutions: setting prices for wholesale and retail customers (versus commodity-based pricing); planning crops for sales to institutions; liability insurance needs: and federal regulations. In addition, many potential buyers in the region don’t know what foods are available locally and have misperceptions of cost.

As such, the Growing Local Food Business Initiative intends to build the capacity of new and existing farmers to create or improve their community-based marketing and business with institutions and directly to consumers.

Oregon Rural Action is a local community organization working for social justice, agricultural and economic sustainability, and stewardship of the region’s land, air and water. The Growing Local Food Business Initiative is a part of Oregon Rural Action’s broader effort to build strong rural communities.

For more information on the Growing Local Food Business Initiative and how you can get involved and offer support, contact Oregon Rural Action at 541-975-2411, email, or stop by the ORA office in La Grande on the 2nd floor of White House Coffee.