Service aims to help small farms
OSU Extension Service tries to keep
pace with shrinking Oregon farms
By HOLLY OWENS H&N Staff Writer
As the sizes of
Oregon farms shrink, the needs of the farmers are
Oregon State University Extension Service is
hiring new agents to teach operators of small
farms and ranches better ways to grow crops, raise
livestock and successfully market their goods.
New extension agents have been hired for the
northern Willamette Valley, southern Willamette
Valley and central Oregon Coast regions. Positions
for southwest and Central Oregon are yet to be
According to the most recent census by the
Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service, roughly
twothirds of Oregon’s 40,000 farms are less than
“You travel through areas like South Poe
Valley and what was one ranch is now maybe four or
five or six,” said Ron Hathaway superintendent of
the Klamath County Extension Service. “That’s a
lot of people’s dream — five, 10, 20 acres in the
Agricultural experts say keeping small farms
in the black will reduce pressure to subdivide, or
otherwise develop, Oregon’s most fertile land as a
result of Measure 37.
‘‘Measure 37 is so divisive, even in the
farming community,’’ said John Belton, a
Sandy-area woodland owner and chairman of the
Clackamas County Extension advisory committee.
‘‘It has become quite clear that these people need
all the help they can get to make a financial go
Under Measure 37, anyone whose property value
was harmed by land use laws passed after he or she
purchased the property is entitled to be paid for
the loss or have the new regulations waived.
The growing presence of smaller farm and ranch
operations is not unique to any particular region
in the state.
“But we’re seeing more of this,” Hathaway said
of grower trends in the Basin.
The small-acreage farms and ranches can’t
sustain a grower as a sole source of income, but
instead help provide a supplemental income for
their owners, and Hathaway notes, they are often
“Lots of them are people in town who’ve wanted
to be out in the country — generally professional
people,” Hathaway said. “And they’re not dependent
upon that acreage for their total living so ...
they have more resources to put into the property
than someone who was trying to rely on it for a
The smaller parcels of land are used for a
variety of purposes.
“They’ll have 35 to 40 head of cows, or five
horses and put the rest up in hay, or someone else
comes and does the hay for them,” Hathaway said.
“There are a few that are going to the farmer’s
market down here which is a good outlet for a
A growing consumer interest in organic
products is providing a niche market for the
small-acreage farmers and ranchers.
The organic market has improved incrementally
over the years, Hathaway notes, as organic
products and produce can now be seen in local
grocery stores like Safeway, Albertsons and Fred
“Its becoming a larger and larger portion
given that it’s only 1 or 2 percent,” Hathaway
said. “But it’s expanding and I think that’s one
of those opportunities for this niche market.”
The smaller plots also provide an opportunity
for growers to test out crops not traditionally
grown in the Basin, such as grapes or sweet corn,
“They can experiment on a smaller scale,”
The Klamath County Extension office, like many
others in the state, doesn’t have an agent
dedicated specifically to helping smallacreage
farmers and ranchers.
“We’ve just included those in what we do at
the extension and the experiment station,”
Klamath County’s extension service has been
answering the same general questions for
small-acreage farmers and ranchers as for their
large farm and ranch counterparts in the Basin.
Agents answer questions as to how to properly
manage manure, what kind of grass to use when
putting in a pasture, fertilizer use and
application, and livestock health issues.
“For the most part the practices are the
same,” Hathaway said.