When farmers come together, new opportunities arise for increased economic viability, quality of life and community interaction. Farmers who have similar interests or shared concerns or needs, for example, specific commodities, organic farmers, women farmers or those who farm and ranch in regional areas, may find benefits from regularly meeting together and exchanging information.
A farmer network builds community by creating new business partnerships, creating new friendships and be deepening existing ones; provides education and mentoring opportunities; and gives farmers a venue for peer-to-peer discussion which often results in innovative production and marketing strategies.
Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, Gorge Grown Food Network, Ten Rivers Food Web and Oregon Rural Action are examples of organizations that have helped connect farmers together through networking.
Three OSU Extension Small Farms extension agents developed a new resource available for farmers, university educators, nonprofit leaders, community organizers, and agricultural professionals interested in starting farmer to farmer networking opportunities. Creating Farmer Networks: A Toolkit for Promoting Vibrant Farm Communities, PNW 638 is an instructional guide for creating farmer-to-farmer networks. This toolkit is based upon the creation and management of two women farmer networks in Oregon.
Through a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Professional Development Program grant, the authors of the toolkit traveled to Idaho and Montana in March, and Northern Oregon in early April to train professionals about network startup, program planning, surveying farmer needs, communicating with and maintaining farmer networks.