Friends of Family Farmers launched the Oregon Pasture Network (OPN) in the summer of 2016 to provide marketing and networking support to pasture-based livestock producers throughout Oregon. OPN currently has 26 “Pasture Partners” who have taken a pledge to raise their animals on pasture in a humane and ecologically responsible manner, providing their animals a high quality of life. Our partners achieve this by grazing and raising animals outdoors on pasture and managing them in ways that protect water quality, build soil health, and sequester carbon. More than a dozen new Partners will be added to our Network in the next few weeks.
Jared Gardner, of Nehalem River Ranch, produces grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and also sits on the OPN Advisory Committee member. He says that the importance of OPN is that “raising animals on pasture increases performance, productivity, health, and quality of the product and has the best environmental benefits of any livestock system.” He also highlights a key goal of the OPN, which is to educate consumers and eaters because “if the food choices they make are better benefitting the environment, the better we will all be.”
Current Oregon Pasture Network Partners are located all over Oregon, ranging from the Willamette Valley and the Coast in the west, the Rogue Valley in the south, and Wallowa County in the east. There is a wide range of experience with pasture-based production among the Partners, so there is ample room to learn from networking events for all involved. As Nehalem River Ranch’s Gardner also notes, “The reason I am involved is to learn from others in the network so that we can all become better stewards of the land.”
Some Pasture Partners are relatively new to the world of pasture-based livestock production while others have well-established, pasture-based operations supplying restaurants and grocery stores. Several of our Partners have been recognized for the high-quality animal products they deliver. Portland's Willamette Week reported earlier this year that the pasture-raised beef from 6 Ranch, one of our OPN Pasture Partners in Enterprise, contributes to “Oregon’s Best Brewpub Burger” and is reason enough to drive all the way to Enterprise from Portland.
With all the excitement around pasture-based livestock production, the Oregon Pasture Network is growing. After a long, wet spring that delayed farm visits for the current round of applicants, OPN now has new life with many activities in the works. We have been busy traveling across the state, reviewing applications and visiting potential OPN partners’ operations. In June, we hosted a Square Dance in Scio to raise money for educational programs that will be available to OPN Partners. We are also distributing promotional materials, setting up a listserv for producers to share information, scheduling networking events and pasture walks for OPN Partners, and developing a first-of-its-kind statewide pasture-raised product directory to help consumers find the highest quality pasture-raised animal products available.
If you have a pasture-based operation and are interested in OPN, we encourage you to apply today! Our application and other information can be found online. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can reach OPN Program Coordinator, Lindsay Trant, at (503) 581-7124.