Tag: oregon aglink

We Are An Industry In Transition

Farmers don’t age gracefully. Being successful in agriculture requires a strong will and an independent mind. It is why most farmers work 40-plus years toiling in all sorts of extremes, and the stress, long hours and crazy weather conditions wear on a body. Let’s face it, most experienced farmers and ranchers look more like Joe Pesci than Sean Connery. However, it’s not the look of most farmers that concern me. It’s the fact that there are so many farmers who look alike.

The statistics tell us that the aging agricultural community could be the most pressing challenge our industry faces, beyond even water, pesticides, labor and land use. According to data from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture (a new one is scheduled to be surveyed in 2017), the average farm operator in the United States is 58.3 years old, up from 57.1 in 2007 and 54.9 years in 2002.

Closer to home, the numbers are even more stunning. In September of 2016, the Oregon State University Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems partnered with Portland State University to release a report on the future of Oregon’s agricultural land. Here are some nuggets from that document:

  • 60 years was the average age of Oregon farmers in 2012, compared to an average age of 55 in 2002 and 50 years in 1982.
  • 24 percent of all Oregon farmers in 2012 were beginning farmers, down from 32 percent in 2002. Although 15 percent of beginning farmers are under the age of 35, nearly half of beginning farmers are aged 45 or older.
  • Farm operators aged 55 and older control 64 percent of Oregon’s agricultural land, or 10.45 million acres, which could change hands in the next 20 years.

So, we’re getting older. The younger generation isn’t coming to the party, and there’s about to be a huge transition of land.

With the escalating value of that land, no wonder it’s difficult to energize the industry with young farm owners. Thanks to strong land use policies, the farm land isn’t likely to be paved over for a strip mall, but what we are seeing is venture capital and large corporations being introduced into Oregon’s ag mix more and more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Oregon agriculture is currently comprised of 97 percent family farms, and that statistic is going to change. Being family dominated resonates with an urban populace, and as the percentage of family farms dwindles the louder a misinformed public is likely to become.

More than half of Oregon’s farms are likely to change hands over the next decade. As an industry we don’t have the luxury of debating this issue for the next five years before we take action. We need to start implementing programs now that help our farms and ranches to successfully transition from one generation to the next.

Every operation is different and has its own set of circumstances. There is no cookie cutter program that will benefit the masses. However, there are strategies that every family-owned farm operation should consider.

Father Time is responsible for that Joe Pesci complex, but with the proper planning you can ensure the legacy of your farm or ranch operation through the next generation.

 

 

 

Geoff Horning, Executive Director

Why We Farm

It’s been a wet and slow start to the season here in Oregon. I’m sure by the time you read this article the memories of our record slow start will be forgotten. So with the objective of saving time I constructed a brief “multi-media” journal for this issue. (Less typing – more pictures and even a video)

Step one before reading this article: open your computer or phone internet connection and do a Google search for “start with why video.”  The video in question is a TEDX talk by author Simon Sinek.

At the beginning of 2016 I was working for an ag tech start-up company and collaborating with an international team on a project to clearly define the company’s marketing message and value proposition.  We sifted through multiple exercises to define the who, what, when, where, how and how much.  Ultimately the project produced the desired outcome.  During my research and gleaning ideas from the all-knowing internet I came across the video “Start with Why”.

It was apparent to me that the team had answered all the key questions except WHY.  Although not a necessity to market your company, the gentleman in the video demonstrates how WHY creates focused meaning within an organization and connections with its customers.

Inspiring urban Oregonians to have an enlightened perspective of Oregon agriculture is a monumental challenge.  Outreach programs like Adopt a Famer have created action through open-minded early-adopters, but we can accomplish even more.  Oregon agriculture and the Aglink membership are made up of diverse businesses and individuals.  Some know their WHY and other may struggle to define it.  Finding ways to distil Oregon Aglink’s collective WHY can be the catalyst to bridging the gap with the HOW of our Cultivating Common Ground initiative.

Some producers may farm and ranch for pride, others for the lifestyle and maybe some just simply because their parents and grandparents did.  Think how strong our collective messages would be if we could connect to consumers with inspiring statements of WHY we farm!

Happy Birthday, Oregon Aglink!

Lori PavlicekIt is time to applaud one of the best organizations dedicated to growing agriculture in Oregon. Fift years in the making, Oregon Aglink began as the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, and has become the bridge between urban and rural Oregonians. Even though the term “agribusiness” worked, it didn’t describe who we are or what we want to achieve. Aglink is more defined, shares specific goals and ways to accomplish those goals with our members. Turning 50 is not easy, coming from someone who has been 49 for three years, but we plan to celebrate agriculture’s past, present, and future the best way we can…by throwing a party.

Who doesn’t enjoy cutting loose? I love throwing on a pair of boots and kicking up my heals and this “shindig” has got some real potential to be a barn burner, a figure of speech considering Victor Point Farms in Silverton has offered up their beautiful grass seed farm and straw shed to host!  Even though it is an over 21 event, the presence of farm families, ag businesses, and folks who just want to celebrate agriculture is always appreciated and a welcome sight. In addition to good food, libation, and mingling with people from all around the state, we can expect an extra helping of some down home music from local boy and Nashville recording artist, Ben Rue.

The Board of Directors wants to encourage members from all over Oregon to join us in our celebration. We periodically hold meetings in different parts of the state, such as a recent meeting we held in Baker City. With my youngest in tow, we saw beautiful fields and mountain ranges made up of shades of green, gold, blue, and brown. It was like a living quilt spread out over miles and miles of terrain. The farms and ranches encompass large swaths of land with small and larger cities dotted throughout. It truly was an enjoyable adventure. My daughter had no idea we could drive so far and still remain in Oregon, but she really enjoyed the small towns and found that each one had a different story to tell, along with a Starbucks or Dutch Brothers. I encourage everyone to take the time, and a road trip, to see what our Eastern, Central, and Southern Oregon neighbors have to offer.

In addition to seeing the beautiful countryside we met locals that shared our vision and desire to introduce our industry to the next generation of urban consumers. We are fortunate to belong to such a well preserved agricultural support group such as Oregon Aglink. It reminds us that we have come a long way in defending our way of life through education and promotion. While most people are several generations removed from the farm, you still come across many urbanites who have relatives on the farm, or have some attachment to a farm or ranch. We come across this many times with the Adopt a Farmer program when a teacher, parent, or chaperone hears or sees something that triggers a fond memory or previous experience. That memory becomes the link to their past and a better awareness of the present, just as the middle school students in the program are creating their own connection to their food and fiber.

Hopefully, you and yours will stop in and partake with family and friends from across Oregon on August 20th at Victor Point Farms to celebrate with us. Tickets must be bought ahead of time and can be purchased here or by calling 503-595-9121. Let’s honor the past 50 years and get a good start on the next!

Lori's Signature

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, President

 

Labels Matter. Unless They Don’t.

geoff horning oregon aglinkMy first reaction was one of relief. Then it was the fear of the unknown and then even a little bit of depression. Of course, the depression may have been a result of the lackluster performance of the Oregon Ducks on the gridiron.

My life changed forever on September 8, 2015. During the previous two weeks I had lost nearly 20 pounds of muscle mass. I felt fine, or so I thought. But, I was shrinking and it was starting to scare me. I was convinced I was dying of cancer. At the urging of friends I decided denial was the incorrect path and went to the doctor.

Good news. It wasn’t cancer. The diagnosis, however, shocked me. I was active, ate modestly healthy and certainly wasn’t obese by any definition. Still, my blood sugar was so high my doctor suspects that if I had remained in denial, they would have found me in a coma within a couple of weeks. The diagnosis: type 2 diabetes, likely triggered by an allergic reaction I had earlier in the year to an antibiotic for a sinus infection.

Though I knew a few people with diabetes, I really didn’t know anything about the disease other than “don’t eat sweets.” Oh, how simplistic and incorrect that statement is.

I’ll be honest. I’d never paid attention to labels before. To me they were all just a marketing ploy. Now, before I purchase anything I’m looking for specific things such as carbohydrates, fiber and sodium. Is it really whole grain, or has it been processed and simply labeled as a wheat product? What’s the serving size? Does it have good fat or bad fat?

I’m lucky. In a very short amount of time I was able to get my diabetes under control through diet and exercise. Still, every single time I eat or drink something I have to pay attention and know these answers. My life literally depends upon it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I’m not alone. There are hundreds of legitimate health reasons why people need to pay attention to the food they consume. The label is an important tool that helps us live healthy and productive lives.

Labels matter. Unless they don’t.

Millions upon millions of dollars are being spent throughout the United States in an effort to ensure our food is labeled if GMO technology is being used. Huh? What? I’m perplexed. Other than fear of not understanding, am I missing something?

In fact, I’m insulted. I need accurate food labels to maintain my health. Telling me it’s a Genetically Modified Organism literally tells me nothing at all. GMO is a term used for a process and not a specific product. It has multiple applications. If I wasn’t informed, I would think that it’s a specific product that I need to watch for. An unscientific study on my Facebook page indicated exactly that. Or worse.

Consumers who don’t want to eat genetically modified foods can already buy non-GMO food, which is clearly labeled and has become a thriving niche industry. Heck, on a recent trip through my local Fred Meyer garden center I stumbled across their marketing of GMO free herbs. Seriously? But a growing chorus says that’s not enough: Critics of GMOs want all food that uses genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as well, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the distinction carries any difference.

In recent weeks, in order to comply with a Vermont law that requires labeling by July 1, major food manufacturers like ConAgra Foods, General Mills and Kellogg’s amongst others announced plans to label food items that have GMOs, despite being opposed to the Vermont legislation. They argue that a federal standard, not a patchwork of state laws, should be the norm.

While I can understand their decision, I disagree wholeheartedly. As somebody who now understands the importance of knowing what’s in his food, a GMO label of any kind is not providing me with any beneficial information and is simply creating an atmosphere of fear at a time when we’re going to need science more than ever to feed the world. The epidemic of scaring people about their food may have larger consequences than the diabetes epidemic sweeping across America.

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Geoff Horning, Executive Director

Oregon Agriculture Needs to Be More Proactive

geoff horningWhen it comes to being a fan of sports, I’m a pessimist. After 44 years of second place finishes, I expect my heart to be broken. I tend to live the rest of my life, though, as an optimist. A belief that common sense will rule the day. Listening to the political debates and testimony on the 400+ bills in Salem’s “short” session, I’m starting to think that common sense is being thrown out with the baby and the bath water.

Many of the issues have no impact on your ability to produce the food and fiber that are basic needs of everybody, but so many of them have unintended consequences that I fear we’re driving the family farmer out of business.

Oregon Aglink has taken great strides over the past several years to tell your story. Others, such as Oregon Women for Ag, Oregon Ag Fest, Farmers Ending Hunger, to name just a few, are doing a magnificent job of telling your story as well. It’s not hard to find positive publicity for an industry that is still the very foundation of this State.

Are we making progress? Absolutely. If you sit down and have a conversation with the majority of Oregonians I think you’ll find most are very respectful, almost reverent about the lifestyle and important role of local producers.

But (there’s always a but), those same Oregonians typically shrug their shoulders at the issues and challenges facing our industry. It’s not because they are mean spirited or even ignorant. They truly do trust you to feed their family. It has much more to do with the fact that they are so consumed with their busy lives that they don’t take the time to know what’s going on outside of their small community. They don’t care about the things that impact your ability to produce their food and fiber.

What they do learn comes from sound bites and social media. And, guess who has the funding resources and the loudest megaphone to dictate that message in Oregon? It’s definitely not the natural resources community. That leads to poor legislation and a constituency that thinks good things are happening because “it feels like the right thing to do.”

Research conducted by Oregon Aglink is very clear. The general public trusts the farmer more than anybody in the food chain. If I’m out telling your story by myself, you might as well hire a used car salesman to do my job. My credibility with the general public isn’t much better. Why? Because it’s perceived that I’m a hired gun only out for a paycheck. That’s not true, but perception is reality.

The good news is that Oregon Aglink is focused on making you the face of Oregon agriculture. Throughout 2016 we’ll be running a series of television commercials in Portland, Eugene and Medford. The entire focus of the “I am Oregon Agriculture” campaign will be about making a connection with Oregonians that local agriculture is made up of 98 percent family farms. With farm families telling that story.

The Adopt a Farmer Program, now in 47 schools and reaching almost 5,000 middle school students throughout Oregon, was specifically designed with the idea of connecting those students with one particular farmer throughout the school year. An emphasis of the program is putting a focus on the people and families who make up the farm.

Will these programs have instant impact? Probably not. We’ve got to play the long game, but to do that we need all of you to become more proactive. Get involved. Tell your story through us, or through one of the other great organizations that represents you. We have to make you the face of our industry before the family farm becomes extinct.

The Weather, The Economy and Economic Espionage

By Mitch Lies

Photos by Mallory Phelan

andres bergero bank of the westHigh consumer confidence supported by high home values and cheap oil provide an opportune time for agribusinesses to expand, according to a Bank of the West vice president to speak at Oregon Aglink’s annual meeting, Jan. 21 in Woodburn.

Andres Bergero, vice president and foreign exchange sales manager of Bank of the West’s Capital Markets Division, added that he expects the elements favoring expansion to remain in place for at least the next two years.

“These are the times to think about expansion, because right now, you can ride that wave of consumer confidence,” Bergero said. “You can expand because you’ll know the consumers will be there.

myron miles annual meeting“With oil prices down, American consumers are spending more, and that it not going to stop,” he said. “This parade has two to three years to go before it changes. That is how long a major change in the economy would take to deflect the consumer direction.

“The U.S. is poised to have a really good year in 2016 and 2017, as well,” he said.

Bergero’s presentation was part of a slate that included a look at how El Nino is influencing weather and insights into economic espionage.

In addition to propping up consumer confidence, Bergero said low oil prices also are lowering transportation costs for farmers, providing another good opportunity for farm expansion.

Bergero added that with Iran coming into the market, with Saudi Arabia maintaining production levels and with declining demand, he believes oil prices will stay low.

“Your cost, your margins for delivering and receiving goods are as low as they’ve been in a long, long time,” he said. “It’s time to think about what else can you do? What more can you do? What more markets can you reach?”

One element hampering economic prosperity in the farm sector is the strong U.S. dollar, Bergero said. Coupled with high unemployment in much of Europe, a relatively weak Chinese yuan and a volatile Chinese stock market, exporters “are not in the driver’s seat,” Bergero said.

Bergero added that the economic situation in China may trend lower, and that further Bank of China monitory actions may occur, including further rate cuts and even additional Yuan devaluations.molly mccarger annual meeting

“They are struggling,” he said, “and that chaos and lack of confidence in the market will continue to erode.

“I think the situation is much dire than they are predicting, and the yuan will continue to go down,” he said. “In fact, China is talking about another 5 to 10 percent devaluation of their currency.”

In Europe, Spain is experienced an unemployment rate of 25 percent, he said, and that’s not counting young adults from the age of 19 to 26. “Add that, and unemployment is closer to 40 percent,” he said, “and it is not that much different in Portugal.

“The only good light in the Eurozone is Germany,” he said. “They continue to export and to build.”

Bergero closed his presentation by advising participants to “look for low-hanging fruit to help fix whatever short-comings you may have. You should think about what can I do differently now, knowing that the consumers will be there in the next 12 to 24 months, knowing that interest rates will be low, knowing that oil will be low and knowing that the dollar is strong,” he said.

IMGJon Sorenson, a special agent with the FBI in Portland, followed Bergero’s presentation with tips for farm businesses to avoid economic espionage.

“You might think you won’t be targeted,” Sorenson said, “but you should realize you are a target.”

Intellectual property theft can result in lost revenue, lost jobs and damaged reputations, Sorenson said.

Among best practices Sorenson shared with meeting participants was to recognize your business’ vulnerability and to fix those risks.

“Make sure you have virus-scanning software,” Sorenson said. “Make sure you have firewalls. Make sure you destroy or wipe out any information on a hard drive before giving it back to a vendor or donating it.”

He advised businesses to conduct annual training to educate employees about risks.

“Have periodic training to remind employees of security threats that are out there,” Sorenson said. “And establish a reporting program, so that if someone has a suspicious contact or they click on an email and are afraid they got a virus on their computer, they have a path they can take to report it.”

When traveling to a foreign country, Sorenson advised participants to be careful about leaving items in hotel rooms that contain sensitive information.

“I have heard stories where people have left computers in their rooms, and people have accessed their computers by entering their rooms,” he said. “When traveling, make sure you keep computers and cellphones with you.”

When hosting a tour group, be aware that surreptitious individuals can access offices, plug a thumb drive into a computer, and download sensitive information.

Sorenson urged participants to call the FBI with any problems or questions.

“So many countries like to cut corners and steal what we have manufactured just to keep up with us,” he said. “Our job with the FBI is to try to help producers – whether it is ranchers, businesses, farmers – stop that economic espionage from happening.

“If you have problems or questions, please don’t hesitate to call the FBI and we’ll work with you to try to figure the whole situation out,” he said.

Sorenson was followed by Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Portland.andy bryant NOAA hydrologist

Bryant said that as of mid-January, snowpack in most of Oregon was about 10 percent higher than average, and in some areas, 80 percent higher.

That is in stark contrast to last year, when snowpack was at record low levels in much of Oregon, primarily due to high temperatures.

“Starting in December and January of last winter, all the way through the summer, we had very high temperatures,” Bryant said. “Typically, we were four to ten degrees above average on a monthly basis for much of the state.”

Between June 1 and Aug. 31 of last year, Bryant said the city of Portland broke the previous record for average daily high temperature by more than two degrees.

“Typically, when we break a record like that over the course of two or three months, we maybe break it by a tenth or two of a degree,” he said. “So it was a very significant period of hot weather.”

Bryant said to expect precipitation to slow in the spring, given that Oregon typically experiences warmer and drier than average spring conditions during El Nino.

“I know we’ve been wet, but we’ll see what things look like once we go all the way through March and April,” Bryant said.

“We’re not expecting a lot of precipitation, based on previous El Ninos,” he said.

He added that the outlook is for above-average temperatures continuing into the summer months.

“What we had last summer was really extreme, so we’re not expecting a repeat of that, but the overall trend is for above-average temperatures,” he said.

As for the water-supply forecast, he said to expect ample supplies in much of the state. The Willamette River at Salem, for example, is looking at about 90 percent of average, he said. “That is slightly below average, but for our needs here in the Willamette Valley, it would be plenty of water.”

Looking further out, Bryant said that forecasters are expecting a La Nina event to take place next year, which typically brings cooler and wetter temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Fourth Generation Farm Girl

By Mitch Lies

Lori & BrotherAs U.S. citizens drift further from the farm, efforts to educate urban residents about the economic, environmental and social benefits of agriculture become more valuable. That is the sentiment of Lori Pavlicek, the new president of Oregon Aglink and self-described “fourth-generation farm girl from Mount Angel.”

As president, Pavlicek said she hopes to continue growing the organization’s signature programs, including Adopt a Farmer and the Road Crop Signs, in an effort to keep with Oregon Aglink’s aim to educate urban Oregonians about agriculture.

She singled out the Adopt a Farmer program as particularly important.

“Bringing farms to urban kids who don’t have any idea of what farming is about is an integral part of our organization, and extremely important,” Pavlicek said.

The Road Crop Signs program she said also is invaluable in keeping agriculture in front of urban residents.

“It makes people look out and realize, ‘Oh, we’re in an ag area. I wonder what they grow here,’” she said. “It helps get people thinking about agriculture and where it is being done.”

Pavlicek also singled out Denim & Diamonds as a key event she plans to focus on during her tenure, both because of its fund-raising capacity and because it serves as an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations that have excelled in advocating agriculture to Oregonians. The 2016 awards dinner and auction is scheduled Friday, November 18 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Pavlicek comes by her advocacy for agriculture naturally. The mother of two grew up working the family’s farm, 4B Farms, Inc., and continues to do so today, serving as office manager. She co-owns the farm with her brother, Jeff Butsch, and parents, Jim and Donna Butsch. (Pavlicek’s husband, Derek, is from an agricultural community, but works for Daimler Trucks North America.)

Pavlicek holds a bachelor’s of science degree in business from George Fox College in Newberg, and she has experience in helping start and manage a yogurt store in Tualatin. She came back to the farm in 1988 when the former office manager left the position.

The diverse farm raises hops, garlic, grass seed, filberts, squash for seed, beans and corn, among other crops.

Pavlicek’s commitment to community goes beyond her advocacy for agriculture. She also is president of the Mount Angel Community Foundation and is secretary of the Providence-Benedictine Nursing Center Board.

Pavlicek also served eighteen years on the Mount Angel Oktoberfest Board of Directors, before taking over as president of the foundation in 2010.

“I believe in community involvement,” she said. “If you don’t support your community, than you can’t expect anyone else to.”

Pavlicek said she is attracted to Oregon Aglink because of its commitment to promote the business, education and social benefits of agriculture.

“Farmers can be too busy to get involved in the promotion of agriculture, so I took an interest in that early on,” Pavlicek said. “That is where I gravitated to.”

Pavlicek also likes that Oregon Aglink stays out of politics. “It doesn’t take sides, which I think is important,” she said. “It is all about awareness of where food and fiber comes from and educating urban residents about the state’s natural resources.”

Geoff Horning, executive director of Oregon Aglink said he is excited to have Pavlicek leading the organization.

“Lori is such a great listener. She is not the most vocal person in a meeting, because she’s busy listening to the various points of view,” Horning said. “When she does speak, however, everybody in the room pays attention, because they know she’s heard the conversation from every angle and is making an informed decision or recommendation.

“We’re excited to have her leading our association over the next year,” he said.

Pavlicek, meanwhile, said she is honored to be serving as president in this, the 50th year of the organization. “This year we will be celebrating Oregon Aglink, which has been 50 years in the making,” Pavlicek said. “I’m honored to be selected as president and look forward to serving the organization in the upcoming year and beyond.”

Oregon Aglink

geoff horningEven simple change can be difficult. I had a friend in college who simply couldn’t function if she didn’t have a specific type of pen to write with. Perhaps she was onto something, as today she’s one of the most successful persons I know both professionally and personally.

How difficult is change? I just texted her to inquire about her pen of choice. She sent me back a photo of her holding that same pen. Some things change, and some things stay the same. I can’t help but laugh at this little idiosyncrasy even today.

Now imagine changing a brand that is 50-years-old and has name recognition throughout the industry. It’s not a decision that comes lightly, or without more than a few conversations. It took us nine years of discussions before we pulled the trigger, but times are changing, and so are we.

At Denim & Diamonds, ABC President Molly McCargar announced to the more than 550 present that the Agri-Business Council of Oregon is now officially doing business as Oregon Aglink.

Why? While the decision is complex, the answer is fairly simple.

When the Agri-Business Council of Oregon was founded in 1966, our industry was still revered by most people, even those who live in Portland, Eugene and Salem. They may not have understood natural resources, but they appreciated and respected the work that was being done. Even in urban settings, being a farmer or rancher was a very noble profession. Agri-business was a term universally respected.

Today? Outside of natural resource circles, not so much.

Agri-business is looked at through a lens of distrust by most Oregonians. Research conducted a couple years ago by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon showed that those in urban centers trusted the individual farmer, but agri-business was not trustworthy, and in fact was deemed as corrupt and almost evil.

Now imagine being members of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. Our spokespeople are the very farmers and ranchers who are universally beloved and respected. Yet, when representing a link between producers and the consumers – the name of the organization was getting in the way of the message.

The Adopt a Farmer program provides our industry with an awesome opportunity to have in-depth conversations with students, teachers and parents. Many of the conversations revolve around pesticide application, the debate surrounding GMO technology and the safety of our food. The depth of their questions are sincere. Rarely with a hint of malice. They just want to be informed.

More and more people want to know where their food and fiber comes from, how it was produced, and even the famous Portlandia skit isn’t too far off. Some do want to know what the name of their chicken is that they’re about to eat. When having that conversation the board of directors decided it’s time to soften our presentation. We want to be that trusted link for the consumer to come to. We want to be that comfortable pen that you can’t live without.

We are the Oregon Aglink.

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