Tony and I participated in this rally yesterday at the Oregon State Capitol. It was sponsored by the Friends of Family Farmers organization, whose goal is: Promoting and protecting socially responsible farming in Oregon. It was established ten years ago when some concerned citizens got to together to protest the establishment of a 55,000 head dairy operation in eastern Oregon. Since then, their numbers have grown and they operate a number of programs that help them in their mission. For more information about Friends of Family Famers, go here.
Yesterday, Tony and I decided to join the ranks of over 150 oregon small farmers at the state Capitol where we were educated on some current bills including:
Enhancing and Funding Aggie Bonds (lower interest loans for beginning farmers)
Protecting Working Lands
Increased Funding for OSU Extension and Ag Research Programs
State Level Genetically Engineered regulation
Agritourism liability protections
Preventing Misuse of Antibiotics
Farm to School funding
Urban Agriculture incentive zones
We spent the morning listening to bill-writers and advocates for each of these bills, learning some lobbying tips, were placed in our regions and were given assignments for 15 minute meetings with our specific representatives in the Senate and House. Although Tony and I are only temporarily living in Oregon, we found the event to be extremely educational and empowering as we learned about some of the issues and the support we’d find if we decided to buy land and start farming in Oregon. We were particularly interested in the Aggie Bonds bill, which would make it easier for us to find low-interest loans as beginning farmers.
After our debriefings in the morning, we all met on the Capitol steps for a friendly rally:
We met a number of wonderful farmers who are doing many of the things we’d like to do. Such as:
Beth Satterwhite of Even Pull Farm: Beth and her partner run a vegetable CSA and cut flower operation about 10 minutes from where we are living. Beth shared our interest in the increased funding for the “Aggie Bonds” and in promoting Agricultural Conservation Easements, to protect land that we would potentially want to buy down the road. Check out her website. It is beautiful: website.
Jess Herzog of One Fork Farm: . Jess and her husband and two kids run a 23-acre farm near where we are living now and they produce pastured meats, traditional ferments, pestos, sauces, and artisanal caramels. She gave us some great tips on farming in Oregon and Maine. Check out her website here.
Having never lobbied before, Tony and I were floored by the experience of meeting with our political representatives, identifying ourselves as farmers and speaking about issues that we found to be most important to us. We realize that it does in fact make a difference to meet with our representatives and give them a face to relate to issues that are important for us. We don’t think this will be the last time we take political action. So far we have found it easier to ignore the political side of things, but it seems worth paying attention and having a voice.
We did notice that it was easier to speak about issues that weren’t as controversial. When it came to such topics as regulating antibiotic use on large factory farms, there was a vast opinion difference between our small group of farmers and our representative, who didn’t seem like he’d budge. It seemed clear to me that there must be more and more education in all forms happening around these topics to inform the consumer of health issues in our food system. But for now, the best thing many of us can do is buy animal and dairy products from organic and pasture-raised sources.
Thank you Friends of Family Farmers for being an advocate for responsible farming, and empowering us to do the same.