Sunday, February 27, 2011

Let’s All Grow This Year… Support for OR HB 2336

I’ve been reading a lot of back and forth about OR HB 2336, the state bill that would allow farmers (growers) to do a small amount of processing to ingredients they grow for sale direct to the consumer (you, at farmers markets).

Since we’re all starting to think about the markets, CSAs and what could be sprouting in our own backyard, it’s a good time to throw in some support.

One of the biggest supporters of this bill is Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farms. You can read about his position, and why it makes sense from a farmer’s perspective over at our friends at Culinate

As some one who’s business is food processing (or, I’m not a farmer, I just work with them to procure ingredients for our own products), I think it’s a smart idea to give farmers some leeway in what they can sell.

  1. Not every crop is either 100% saleable or sells out (I’m not talking about strawberries which seem to disappear in minutes after the market bell rings). Produce (or ingredients) do not grow uniformly. Not in your garden, not on acres of land. Also, what a lot shoppers don’t realize is, there’s no guarantee what a farmer brings to market is going to sell out (or at all). Giving farmers an opportunity to extend their crop by utilizing rejects, and/or unsold produce is a win for the shopper in buying something truly artisanal while allowing the farmer to recap (or extend) their profits.
  1. Shoppers don’t always know what to do with ingredients. No, I am not calling you a bad or unadventurous home cook. However, I’ve spent a few market seasons next to Anthony & Ayers Creek (as well as Springwater Farms and Creative Growers) and when ever there’s an item that’s unusual - borage,  sun chokes, or an heirloom currants, more often than not I hear the question “How would you cook or prepare it?” Which many times leads to an ingredient being passed over (with the second comment being “I don’t know if my family will like it”). If these farms were able to produce small amounts of a finished product (borage chips? currant spread? Sun choke pesto?), besides landing a sale, it would provide the opportunity to expand a shopper’s horizon into a new ingredient.
  1. Innovation. Perhaps there’s another great product out there. In a time where shoppers are (thankfully) becoming more aware of what’s in their food (and companies like mine strive to continue to create clean products by purchasing from farms like these), there could be larger market out there for something one of the farmers produces.
While this is my view (I don’t get to vote on the bill), I am in support of items like this that enable our local agri-economy to grow and thrive. I’m already a fan of Ayers Creek Polenta and if Springwater Farms were able to produce a wild-mushroom demi-glace… I can only imagine the dinner possibilities!

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