THANK YOU you to all the farmers, ranchers, eaters, and advocates who filled out our 2020 Oregon Family Farms Survey. Our original goal was 500 respondents, and because of support from our partner organizations and word of mouth from FoFF-loving folks around the state, we blasted through that goal and got 696 responses. This information will help us frame our advocacy and programming for the next two years, including the 2021 Session of the Oregon Legislature.
The survey was completed by farmers and ranchers as well as eaters and advocates from across the state. Although we welcomed everyone to share their opinion, we did ask different questions to farmers and non-farmers.
Who are Oregon’s Socially Responsible Family Farmers?
The face of Oregon agriculture is changing. In 2016, a study by OSU Small Farms, PSU and Rogue Farm Corps showed that the average age of Oregon farmers was 60 years old. The majority of farmers who responded to our Survey, nearly 60%, were under the age of 55. In addition to bucking the trend of older farmers, our survey had 64% female farmer respondents. This differs from the most recent Oregon Census of Agriculture which reported only 44% female producers in the state.
We also found that the majority of farmers owned at least some of the land they farmed, but nearly 1 in 4 farmers who took our survey (24.7%) own none of the land they are farming.
The racial makeup of our respondents was also more diverse than the Census of Agriculture. Our respondents were 83% White, 2% Asian, 1% Black, 4% Mutiracial, 3% Native American, 4% Latinx, and 4% marked either “other” or “prefer not to say.” In the Oregon Census of Agriculture the respondents were 97% White, 1% Asian, 0.1% Black, 1.2% Multiracial, 1.1% Native American, and no other options were recorded. This is not to say that our data is representative of communities of color. We know we have a long way to go to include BIPOC voices in our data and our work. We bring this up more to highlight the extremely low numbers of BIPOC producers represented in traditional datasets in agriculture.
What do Oregon Family Farmers care about?
FoFF’s advocacy efforts are always by and for farmers, and we asked all farmer respondents to choose their top three priorities from a list of fifteen issues facing farmers today. Some issues were chosen from our Agriculture Reclamation Act and from Listening Sessions over the last 10 years. Some are issues we are currently working on in order to gauge their continued importance. Some were added to the list for the first time this year, such as “Lack of support for farmers of color, beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans,” “Impact of legalized cannabis and/or hemp production on Oregon’s family farms” and “Immigration concerns.”
The survey showed a wide range of interests and concerns. The three issues that rose to the top were the effects of climate change, access to affordable, appropriate land, and lack of small scale meat processing infrastructure.
Although these three were at the top of the list, many were close behind. Meaning… there are many pressing issues for Oregon’s small and mid-sized family farmers! The system was clearly built by and for industrial agribusiness, or in some cases just doesn’t have room for new and innovative approaches. This means smaller farmers, trying to do the most with what they have, often face many obstacles. The full list of issues faced by Oregon’s family farmers is below. Each farmer chose three (unranked) as the most important issues facing their farming operation. These numbers are calculated as a percentage of total respondents who chose any given option.
Percentage of respondents who chose as part of top 3
Effects of Climate change
Lack of small scale meat processing infrastructure
Access to affordable appropriate land
Food system infrastructure (food hubs, farmers markets etc.)
Limited access to capital (public grants, insurance, savings plans, loans etc)
Water supply quality and access
Lack of access to affordable health care
Farm worker issues (wages, working conditions etc.)
Lack of support for farmers of color beginning farmers and ranchers veterans
Agritourism – promotion of or problems with
Succession planning and generational land transfer
Concerns about genetically modified crops (GMOs)
Impact of legalized cannabis and/or hemp production on Oregon’s family farms
Not enough farmer education/training programs in my region
What do our Non-Farmer Supporters want from FoFF?
We also asked non-farmers to complete the survey. These dedicated folks are local food enthusiasts, farmer support industry representatives, nonprofit staff, and food system advocates. We asked them about how they typically interact with their local farmers, what they see the role of Friends of Family Farmers to be for the eater community, and what educational opportunities they would most like to have going forward.
In this survey there was no limit on the number of options an eater could pick, we only asked what topics would motivate them to attend an educational program. The numbers here are representing the percentage of respondents who chose each category as part of their list of interests.
The priorities for our eater community centered on localism, and forward thinking. They showed us that while nitty gritty, process specific workshops are interesting (working with orchard fruit and jam processing, for example), they are more interested in systems level change and being part of the solution for the long haul. 58.6% of eater respondents wanted more information about how to find the farmers in their specific area. This tells us that making those regionally specific, locally focused connections is important. 53.3% also wanted to know how to engage in advocacy to improve the food system. This is a cornerstone of FoFF’s work and (spoiler alert!) we have already begun the planning process for a Fall Democracy School around ballot measures and elections as well as a winter series on How to Engage with the Legislative Session. 52.9% were also interested in supporting the next generation of farmers. As the elder generation has to lay down their tools for some well-deserved rest, Oregon’s eaters know it is crucial to support the new, young, and beginning farmers to fill that gap.
We are sincerely grateful for everyone who filled out the survey! FoFF needs to be led by the people we serve and your input makes sure we are working the hardest on the most pressing issues. THANK YOU!