Growing the natural foods industry in Lane County: a report for the Lane County sustainable business and jobs project

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Title: Growing the natural foods industry in Lane County: a report for the Lane County sustainable business and jobs project
Author: Shinabarger, Tim; University of Oregon. Program for Watershed and Community Health
Abstract: In winter 2003, graduate students researchers working with the University of Oregon Program for Watershed and Community Health analyzed the size, scope, and interrelationships of the natural foods industry in Lane County. This report summarizes the findings. In Lane County, the natural foods industry comprises more than 30 businesses and 30 organic farms. The 15 natural food companies that responded to a survey mailed to Lane County businesses that were believed to fall into the sustainability sector reported at least 334 local employees and annual local payrolls of at least $8.39 million. The lowest level of annual sales reported was $76,000; the highest was $16 million. This information suggests that the natural foods industry makes an important contribution to for local economy. Our research found that many local food producers, café’s, distributors and organic farms know each other and maintain business relationships. However, our research did not identify a well-defined business cluster. This suggests that with an effective approach, a major opportunity may exist to help stabilize and grow the natural foods industry as a major business cluster in Lane County. In addition, in assessing sustainable business practices within the sector, we found gaps in the supply chain that suggest potential business opportunities. Organic farming became one of the fastest growing segments of United States agriculture during the 1990’s, expanding at a rate of 20-25 percent annually. U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. In Lane County, accredited certifying agents have certified 1,549 acres of organic farmland. Local farms sell produce in local and West Coast markets. Local consumers are educated about organic food, which stimulates local demand. The presence of knowledgeable local customers is often one of the prerequisites for the development of a strong business cluster. Farmers Markets provide direct connections between farmers and consumers. Local residents buy plant starts for home gardens, providing pre-harvest income for greenhouse farmers. These interrelationships suggest a framework may already exist in which to grow the natural foods industry.
Description: 36 p.
Date: 2003-10-10

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