Oregon's Organic Agriculture and Processing Industry
Organic agriculture and food processing is a relatively small but rapidly growing segment of Oregon's total agriculture industry.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, "Organic farming has been one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture for over a decade." The U.S. had fewer than one million acres of certified organic farmland when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990. By 2002, when the United States Department of Agriculture implemented the National Organic Standards, certified organic farmland had doubled. It doubled again by 2005. The United States had 4.1 million acres of organic farmland by 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony. ‘Organic' is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
Who are Oregon’s Organic Farmers?
When you hear the term "organic farmer," you may have a picture of a counter-culture, tie-dye wearing hippie-type living "off-the-grid" in Takilma. You may be right in some cases. But for the first time, the 2002 Census of Agriculture contains data about Oregon's organic farms and farmers. Of Oregon's approximately 40,000 farms, only 515, or 1.3 percent, were certified organic at that time. According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, most organic producers are 45 years of age or older. About one in seven were older than 65. Most organic certified farms were small operations in 2002. About one in three had total sales of less than $1,000. Total sales were less than $10,000 for 82 percent of certified organic farms (Graph 1). The 2007 Census of Agriculture was recently completed but won't be released until February 2009.