I wrote about ways Rogue Valley farmers can widen their reach in the local market.
Alec Miller, an economist with REMI Northwest has some thoughts on the matter he shared with me and I’m passing them along to our readers:
Specialty crops are an increasing part of agriculture in the Rogue Valley. Herbs, vegetables, and specialty meats, produced for the local market sometimes produce $5,000 or more per acre for the farmer, while traditional ranching might be more like $200 per acre on the same land, the prevalent (and very wonderful too) use of ag land in the valley.The inputs in labor and materials are correspondingly much greater for these high value crops also. This means that high value agriculture, like the herbs and vegetables that you mention, has the potential to change the agricultural economy in the Rogue Valley, by more intensively cultivating the land, creating jobs, and creating more value from the land.
Secondly, local wholesaling is a related issue but it’s not quite the same thing. Produce and meats in Southern Oregon stores and restaurants are almost exclusively delivered by Portland, and Willamette Valley firms, and produce is almost exclusively purchased by out of area firms. Cattle are also mostly slaughtered and packaged elsewhere. There are a few local exceptions, notably Organic Produce Warehouse, the Coops, vendors at the farmers markets, some butchers, and some others I’m sure that I just haven’t met. For generations it’s been a legitimate complaint of farmers that the wholesale system gets paid much more than the farmers who make the product. The scale required to have adequate variety to suit demand, and adequate market outlets to accommodate harvest schedules, make it difficult for local wholesalers to compete with large regional or national firms. These ‘economies of scale’ have led to the modern industrial wholesale system that farmers and consumers must endure today.
A web based marketplace connection between buyers at restaurants and stores, and producers at Rogue Valley farms and local wholesalers, could be a partial solution to the problem of scale in wholesaling Rogue Valley produce. Such a marketplace might be as simple as a “Facebook for Farmers,” but would help local producers to capture more value from their product, while allowing local consumers access to higher quality, fresher produce, without having to pay the middleman.
We all know about frequent-flyer rewards, here’s a story about a fellow who apparently racked-up frequent-eater points at an airport lounge without ever boarding a plane.
The key phrase I find in this Sterne Agee report: “Consumers are no longer using their homes to supplement spending.” Whatever rebound there is in housing seems to be on a shaky foundation.