Ag census portrays diverse Oregon industry

03/17/2009 02:00:00 AM

With more than 225 commodities, Oregon has one of the most diverse agricultural industries in the nation, according to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture.

And they add up to $5 billion for the state's economy.

"We are not a big mono-agriculture state,” says Laura Barton, trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture in Salem. “Midwest states have thousands and thousands of acres planted in two crops—corn and soy beans. In Oregon, we have this wonderful tapestry of different crops.”

Credit Oregon's diverse climate, soil, topography and producers' mindset for allowing them to grow the wide range of commodities.

“It speaks to the creative outlook of many growers who are willing to take risks or look outside the normal desire to just keep growing what they always have been growing,” Barton says. “They are willing to try something new and address consumer trends that often show interest in new things.”

Until a couple of years ago, some crops listed in the census were never produced in Oregon. Others were around, but in such small numbers that most Oregonians would not know about them. Among the emerging commodities is olives for oil production, primarily a California crop.

“There are a few farms now that have planted olive orchards, primarily for pressing into oil,” Barton says. “Olive oil has become quite trendy with the consumer and of interest to people involved with food. There are plantings both in southern Oregon and in Yamhill County.”

The 2007 Census of Agriculture officially lists eight olive farms covering 13 acres.

In many cases, diversified growers looked for something different to add to their mix of crops and saw niche opportunities for a commodity that is typically imported to the United States.



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