The stories of Oregon’s natural resource industry are rooted in transitions – big and small, they all play a role in where we have been, who we have become, and where we are going. As the COVD-19 continues to create institutional and global disruption, the agricultural community is once again being asked to transition to meet changing needs.
Farmers have been dealing with transition for years. In the midst of the uncertainty that surrounds the current coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to remember the strength and flexibility of our agriculture community. A testament to that strength is the generational transitions for farms, ranches, forests, and fishing boats. Even in the midst of disruptive times across the world and in transitioning a business, food is essential to life and the ability to be flexible is paramount among leaders in agribusiness.
As the global pandemic continues to unfold, it is not the only pressure the farming community is facing. From the endless orchards full of hazelnut trees of varying ages across the Willamette Valley to the explosion of hemp production all around the state, Oregon’s farmers are pioneers in innovation and their willingness to transition new crops and accommodate changing climates patterns. Many farms and ranches look different than they did decades ago, evolving to meet consumer and environmental demands.
Not only are all our producers having to comply with a myriad of regulations, but interrupted access to local, national, and international markets necessitate creativity and flexibility. The ever-eternal optimists, Oregon’s food, fiber, and shelter producers are constantly looking to revise practices and improve efficiency in the safest and most sustainable way. What worked for one generation might not be the best for the next – COVID-19 is changing the world rapidly and Oregon producers are at the forefront of keeping up with it all. It is the ag community that keeps food on the shelves and provides for the most basic and essential needs during this time of uncertainty.
At a time in which our lives are being altered, we are served well by remembering that adaptability across Oregon’s farms, ranches, fisheries, and forests has been happening long before we were here. In fact, the decisions of our ancestors are why we are here today. We are strongest when working together, generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor, and community with community.
Mallory Phelan is the Executive Director of Oregon Aglink, a nonprofit dedicated to growing agriculture in Oregon through education and promotion.