Digging in the Dirt: Urban and Rural

Sage-Center-Web-685x320I have spent my working life connecting the urban and rural communities of Oregon. County Fairs, the State Fair, Oregon Ag Fest and many talks to local Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs are all good places to talk to folks about agriculture. Being that bridge between divergent populations has had its ups and downs, but it has mostly been a positive experience.

With Farmers Ending Hunger, I find myself in the exact same spot. Linking urban folks with their farming neighbors is more important than ever. As I speak with folks, I notice there are still a few gaps. I wonder if most consumers really know where and how most of their food is grown, processed and handled prior to the grocery store. An acre is roughly 209 by 209 feet in size, not much bigger than a typical city lot. But, from this one acre a grower can produce 8 tons of green beans, 12 tons of sweet corn and a whopping 30 tons of potatoes.

This productive capacity allows Farmers Ending Hunger to exist and be successful. Growers can set aside an acre or percent of production just for the Oregon Food Bank Network or sell a crop and donate the cash for the same purpose. It adds up a grower at a time and acre at a time, and in the end, results in millions of pounds of donated commodities each year. Once the need is met at the regional level in the Oregon Food Bank Network, the additional food is transported to the Oregon Food Bank in Portland for statewide distribution. Almost 45 percent of the people served by the Oregon Food Bank live in the Portland Metro area, so the majority of food donated from farms throughout the state is finding its way to our urban centers.

Whenever I visit the SAGE Center in Boardman, Ore., I am reminded of how important the urban-rural connection can be. The Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Center is a state-of-the-art, interactive learning environment for agricultural and natural resources. Farmers Ending Hunger is forging a new partnership with the SAGE Center, and you will hear much more in the near future. The SAGE Center is one more reason I am encouraged about the future of understanding between our urban and rural friends.

I am more optimistic these days because of the explosion of interest in local food. Farmers markets, CSA’s and farm stands are gaining in popularity. We want to make that connection with our food and meet the farmer face to face. “Locally grown” is the fastest growing segment in the food market, and when it comes to getting high quality food products into the Oregon Food Bank Network, it is what Farmers Ending Hunger is all about!