Friends Of Family Farmers - Oregon Pasture Network
by Lindsay Trant, Oregon Pasture Network Program Manager
In June 2016, Friends of Family Farmers, a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for family farms, launched the Oregon Pasture Network (OPN). The program connects Oregon’s pasture-based producers to each other as well as resources and expert assistance on sustainable grazing systems that are healthier for animals, the environment, and their farms. The OPN also connects these producers to the growing crowd of eaters who care about the source of their food and want to purchase their meat, eggs, and dairy from pasture-raised animals.
Two years later, there are now nearly 60 members of the Oregon Pasture Network and the benefits keep growing. Every member of the OPN is listed in the OPN Product Guide for free (available at www.oregonpasturenetwork.org), allowing Oregonians to locate and purchase products raised in a more environmentally sound manner, on pasture. We plan to keep evolving this Product Guide as the program grows. Most recently, we made it easier for shoppers to find pasture raised meat, eggs, and dairy directly from OPN producers in their area.
In addition to upgrading the Product Guide, we hosted a series of InFARMation events in the Portland area through the Fall of 2018 for a deep look into the benefits of raising animals on pasture – for the environment, for farmers, for animal welfare, for consumers, and for your health. Local eaters came out to hear about pasture-raised beef, poultry, pork, and dairy directly from members of the OPN, restaurant owners, health professionals, and other experts.
For farmers, being a member of the OPN means access to a number of benefits. We sponsor classes to provide expert assistance for producers dedicated to continually improving their pasture-based systems and want to deepen their understanding of the art and science of responsible grazing. Last year we worked with Dr. Woody Lane of Lane Livestock Services to offer an 8-week in-depth forage and pasture management course and OPN members got a 50% discount on course fees. One member who took the course said that the course inspired him “to get out and do some of the things I already knew needed to be doing. Case in point: Get an updated soil test! It really helped me up my pasture management game and it started paying off in the first season.”
We also provide a place where pastured producers can get together and learn from one another. We host a producer listserv to share tips and information, and we launched a Potluck and Pasture Walk series this summer, hosted by different members of the OPN. The first of these were hosted in Beavercreek and Scio, and over 20 producers came out to each location to learn from one another and talk pasture. One OPN member said that they “gained tremendous value from attending a pasture walk. It was awesome to see how another farmer approaches challenges that are similar to ours, and to get inspired to try some new things.” Since pastures can vary from place to place and seasonally, these walks will continue in different parts of the state and at different times of the year.
Our long-term vision for the Network is to include every Oregon producer who raises animals in a pasture-based system that places a high value on the land, animal welfare, and the well-being of their local communities. We recently opened up the membership to include ‘aggregators,’ those who sell products from other pasture-based producers solely, or in addition to their own. Interested aggregators can now apply!
If you are a producer or aggregator interested in joining the Oregon Pasture Network, you can read more about our program and apply to join at www.friendsoffamilfarmers.org/OPN. Please reach out if you have any questions. You can email us at OPN@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or call us at (503) 581-7124.