Economic Impact of Oregon Farmers Markets Continues Growth

After the USDA released impressive new statistics last week demonstrating a nearly 10 percent increase in national farmers markets, the Oregonian digs into what the numbers mean for Oregon. Unsurprisingly, we are a national leader in local consumers supporting local produce, and the impact is growing.

According to the new numbers, Oregon has 164 markets, 20 more than last year. Nationally, there are 7,864 farmers markets registered with the USDA; Oregon ranks 15th.

The Oregonian talks with Oregon State University economist Larry Lev, who estimates that farmers markets contribute about $50 million annually to Oregon's farm sales. 2007 statistics from the US Census of Agriculture show that total Oregon farm-direct sales--including farmers markets, farm stands, U-pick fields, and community supported agriculture (CSA) operations--added up to as much as $100 million in direct impact. This impact far outweighs our state's population: Oregonians ranked second in the nation for average annual expenditures on these kinds of sources, spending nearly four times the national average. These numbers are due to updated this year, and the total expected to rise.

Moreover, like Oregon agriculture generally, farmers markets are well insulated from the boom-and-bust economic cycles that can wreak such havor in other areas of the Oregon economy.

In years when the economy's bad, farmers markets do surprisingly well; Larry Lev tells the Oregonian. "In the last recession they held up really well, because we have such diverse crops."

It is important to remember that the success of direct farm sales depends in large part on our ability to protect highly productive farmland near our cities, a key tenet of the Oregon land use planning program. State estimates have previously found that the vast majority of farmland in production when Oregon's program was implemented in the 1970s remains in production today, even as our population has more than doubled. Few other states can tell such a successful story.Learn more about the role of land use planning in this and other areas of your life and community at friends.org/LandUseIs.

Read the full Oregonian piece here.

Photo credit: flickr.com/BaseCampBaker. Used under Creative Commons License.