Oregon Tilth Executive Director Profiled in Captial Press
This week Capital Press profiled Oregon Tilth’s Executive Director Chris Schreiner and his two decades of experience at Oregon Tilth. In his time at Oregon Tilth Schreiner has seen sales in organics grow by more than 15 fold, “Today, you can find organic produce and organic products on the shelves of pretty much all the major supermarkets and big box stores,” Schreiner said. “It’s shifted from kind of a niche market more to the mainstream.”
Before joining Oregon Tilth Schreiner had years of experience in agriculture from growing up working summers at his family’s iris nursery as well as working at a small organic farm after college. He is passionate about organic agriculture, with a focus on building a strong sense of community among farmers. From supporting non-organic farms through transition to focusing on organic’s benefits, Schreiner is intent on engaging the community in positive dialogue. “I really wanted to change the conversation and have it be more inclusive,” he said.
Transitioning to organic is no easy feat. Growers must demonstrate organic practices on the land or in their animals for at least three years. The financial strain is only getting tougher for small and mid-size growers, as more larger farms certify organic acres, which in turn has started to push down the value of some price premiums.
“For the longest time, organic agriculture was kind of this refuge for the small and midscale operations to remain economically viable,” Schreiner said. “As the marketplace has grown and these bigger players are coming in, that’s creating price pressure.”
While Schreiner has seen the organic industry grow and change, he remains optimistic about the future, “I still think there’s a lot of opportunity for organic agriculture, and farmers who are interested in organic agriculture,” he said.”