Oregon has a long and rich agricultural history. From settlers who braved the Oregon Trail to start farms here to modern-day families working hard to maintain this proud tradition, Oregon’s agricultural businesses have always been integral to the state. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural business owners play a role in more than just the state’s history, though. Oregon’s agriculture also affects its government, economy, tourism, and more.
With such a fascinating legacy, it’s no wonder why Oregon is brimming with interesting and jaw-dropping facts about its agriculture. Check out these eight facts you didn’t know about farmland in Oregon.
The Oregon Farming Tradition
Oregon’s farming tradition predates its statehood. Long before Oregon became the 33rd state in 1859, the agricultural industry was flourishing. As a result, the state has thousands of long-standing farming and ranching operations. The Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation recognizes many of these legacy businesses through the Century Farm & Ranch Program. Over 1,200 farms and ranches are registered with the program, meaning the state officially recognizes them as being open and operational for at least 100 years. The program also recognizes dozens of agricultural businesses that are at least 150 years old.
In addition to long-standing independent businesses, the Oregon Farm Bureau has also celebrated 100 years of operations. The Farm Bureau began in Umatilla County in 1919 before becoming a statewide organization in 1932.
Oregon Trail Guides Boasted About Oregon Farmland
Oregon flourished early on as an agricultural hub. As the industry grew, it became so important to the state’s success and identity that most settlers heading to Oregon in the mid-1800s were doing so to farm or ranch.
Oregon Trail guidebooks reflect the importance of the state’s agricultural industry with advertisements about the rich farmland waiting for settlers at the end of their journey. With images of an overflowing cornucopia and descriptions of rich soil, mild climate, and useful river systems, these guidebooks encouraged countless farmers and ranchers to join Oregon’s thriving agricultural industry.
Oregon Farms Make Up Much of the State’s Land
Oregon’s agricultural industry still takes up much of the state’s space today. There are about 15.8 million acres of agricultural land in Oregon—that’s roughly 25 percent of all land in the state. This land is home to over 37,000 farms and ranches with an average size of 425 acres per farm. Clearly, Oregon dedicates much of its land to its agriculture.
What’s even more interesting, though, is how diverse that land is. Oregon’s farming operations include a vast range of business types, farm sizes, and operation types. Oregon is home to agriculture businesses of all shapes and sizes, from small, organic farms selling to strictly local markets to massive commercial operations exporting goods around the world.
Farmland Supports Conservation Efforts
Oregon farmers know that if they take care of the land, the land takes care of them. That’s why farmers put a lot of time, money, and effort into the quality of their land. Efforts to maintain soil, air, and water quality benefit more than just farmers, though; these efforts also give back to the environment and help preserve Oregon’s natural beauty.
As a result, farms and ranches play a significant role in statewide conservation efforts, wildlife habitats, and so on. When farmers improve the water quality or work to prevent soil erosion on their land, they’re also helping to reduce the destruction of wildlife habitats. Furthermore, over 40,000 acres of Oregon’s farmland help support the restoration of streams and other fish habitats through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
Other similar projects include grower conservation activities through Oregon’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. Farmers can also help preserve healthy waterways with the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program or Wetland Reserve Program.
Oregon Farmland Is a Family Business
One of the coolest facts you didn’t know about farmland in Oregon is that most of it belongs to family-owned businesses. Family-owned-and-operated farms and ranches make up around 96.7 percent of all of Oregon’s agricultural businesses. Families even own some of Oregon’s corporate farms, as some family businesses have been incorporated for tax reasons or as part of family succession plans.
Oregon Farmland Produces a Wide Variety of Crops
Oregon is a specialty-crop state with a rich variety of goods to offer. It’s even a top producer of some of the most popular goods in the United States, including hazelnuts, rhubarb, and Christmas trees. The state is also the nation’s top producer of crimson clover, potted florist azaleas, sugar beets for seed, Dungeness crab, and seeds for red clover, white clover, fescue, and ryegrass.
Here are other top crops that Oregon produces:
- Seed for Kentucky bluegrass
- Sweet cherries
- Snap beans
With over 225 officially recognized commodities, Oregon delivers an abundant variety of goods for local markets and global industries alike.
Oregon Wine Country Is a Big Deal
Wine grapes are one of Oregon’s top 10 agricultural products. While many people think of California as America’s wine country, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is also home to a thriving industry of vineyards and wineries. In addition to being a great agricultural opportunity, Oregon’s vineyards are a huge part of Oregon’s tourism industry. Visitors from all over the world come to Oregon’s wine country, boosting profits for local vineyards and other farming operations and creating opportunities for B&Bs, restaurants, shops, and other local businesses.
The Missoula Floods Created Willamette Valley’s Topsoil
Willamette Valley is one of the most important agricultural areas in the state. But why is it so successful? There are a few reasons, including the mild climate and long growing season. However, the most important answer lies in the Missoula floods that occurred at the end of the last ice age.
Thousands of years ago, the ice dam on the Glacial Lake Missoula ruptured, sending periodic but massive floods down the river. Those floods carried millions of pounds of rich topsoil across eastern Washington and into Oregon, where it washed into what we now know as the Willamette Valley. That incredibly productive soil is still there today, providing the perfect foundation for an incredible variety of healthy, thriving crops.
At Farm Plus Financial, we’re proud to be part of Oregon’s rich and fascinating agricultural history. By helping farmers and ranchers find the Oregon agriculture loans they need to fund their businesses, we help one of the state’s richest industries continue to thrive. Learn more about how we help farmers in Oregon when you reach out to the team at Farm Plus Financial today.