The Agri-Business Council of Oregon (ABC) has found a new way to raise awareness and support for the state’s agriculture industry.
Keeping Ag Viable is a state-wide program intended to motivate Oregon’s citizens to support agriculture by purchasing locally grown products, and through their consideration at the ballot box.
Agri-Business Council of Oregon executive director Geoff Horning says the program combines Oregon agriculture’s diverse and intellectual resources to create a unified message that showcases the value agriculture provides in the Northwest. “Oregon is unique in that the majority of its population base is in the Portland/Metro area, and there’s a real disconnect between the urban and rural factions of the state,” Horning says. “Ultimately, we’re trying to engage the urban Oregonian so they have a better understanding of the economic, environmental, and social importance agriculture has on the entire Oregon lifestyle.”
How It Started
In October 2007, ABC hosted a retreat for some of Oregon’s agricultural leaders with the hopes of identifying key issues and developing a cohesive message that would cross all sectors of the industry. The diversity of the crops grown in the state (more than 240 of them) is a double-edged sword, Horning says. “That diversity is a strength of Oregon agriculture, but in many ways, it’s a weakness, too, in that we all have similar but different messages.”
The goal? To find ways to unify. “Over two days, we literally identified 30 pages of issues or challenges facing the industry that we felt the general public didn’t understand or appreciate,” Horning says. “Over the past two years, we’ve conducted a series of public opinion research polls to test each of these issues and challenges, and to help us identify which of these issues is the most pressing right now, and which could become more pressing over time. We also wanted to identify areas that we feel there is an opportunity to either change or reinforce public opinion.”
Horning adds that water quality and quantity and pesticide application are issues the group thinks are important and present an opportunity for the industry to be proactive rather than reactive. “We’re currently embarking upon an aggressive fundraising campaign and hope to begin a media campaign throughout Oregon in 2010,” he says.
The Keeping Ag Viable committee includes farmers, ranchers, and food processors who are committed to the cause, and the program is looking for more people to get involved. “The more producers we have involved in this campaign, the stronger we will be. Our research shows that the most trustworthy spokesmen for this campaign are the farmers and the ranchers,” Horning says. “We need them to tell our message and be proud of the work they do.”
For more information on the program, go to www.aglink.org.