From Our RootsCommunity Food Assessment Report                                   The People, Agriculture and Food of Gilli...
THE ASSESSMENT TEAM               PRIMARY AUTHORS AND RESEARCHERS                         Karen Wagner, CAPECO            ...
FOREWARDWhen the first settlers came to Oregon they were amazed by the rich soil, abundant water supply and eventhe island...
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSBeyond our main collaborators, we acknowledge the support of the many community members whocommitted time a...
TABLE OF CONTENTSTHE ASSESSMENT TEAM ........................................................................................
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY FROM OUR ROOTS: THE PEOPLE, AGRICULTURE ANDFOOD OF GILLIAM, MORROW, UMATILLA AND WHEELER COUNTIESCoverin...
our food system. This community food securityINTRODUCTION                                                   movement is wo...
defined as “a collaborative and participatory                  the movement toward a more localized, locally-process that ...
WEALTH. Economically speaking, cash                            vehicles, roads and paths evolved to servereceipts to farme...
human, economic and cultural needs of itsresidents over time. The ultimate blessing ofdeveloping and sustaining a healthy ...
CHAPTER 1—THE FOODSHEDALL SYSTEMS GO. A "food system" is madeup of all the cultural beliefs, technical elementsand physica...
CHAPTER 2—GILLIAM COUNTY                                                      WHEAT FIELDS AND WINDMILLS IN GILLIAM COUNTY...
surround it, the designation of a frontier county              Since 2000 Gilliam County has lost -14.1% of(Frontier Educa...
Another consideration is the aging population is               landfills on the northern end of the Countythe importance o...
good nutrition. While Condon has an active FFA                 visits to the food pantry, community meals andprogram that ...
Wheat is the principal crop; there are over                    There was concern expressed by a number of97,000 acres plan...
wind development. Many farmers receive lease                   more than a few plants. It is more than just waterpayments ...
EMERGENCY FOOD. Nearly 70% of Gilliam                          Grocery stores in both towns accept SNAP andCounty resident...
consumer survey respondents said “sit-down                     food needs. Several people believe that there arerestaurant...
ADDRESSING HUNGER in Gilliam County, 2009GILLIAM COUNTY Oregon   In these hard economic times, many more people are hungr...
opportunities for youth to stay or return areCONCLUSION                                                     critical for t...
OPPORTUNITIES IN GILLIAM COUNTYRecommendation 1: Increase outreach and networking around local food and farm opportunities...
4. Increase the amount of local or regionally produced food available in grocery stores and restaurants.Recommendation 5: ...
CHAPTER 3—MORROW COUNTY                                                              HAYFIELDS AND WINDMILLS IN NORTH MORR...
and outflow of goods and people, an ebb and             Boardman, two gas-fired plants at the Port,        flow of money a...
sectors. Expanding Hispanic and other minority          A large number (82%) of respondents surveyed        populations ha...
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks
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From Our Roots: Community Action Program of East Central Oregon and Food Banks

  1. 1. From Our RootsCommunity Food Assessment Report The People, Agriculture and Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla and Wheeler Counties, Oregon Community Action Program of East Central Oregon In cooperation with Oregon Food Bank and Resource Assistance for Rural Environments
  2. 2. THE ASSESSMENT TEAM PRIMARY AUTHORS AND RESEARCHERS Karen Wagner, CAPECO Katie Weaver, CAPECO and RARE CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS, RESEARCHERS AND EDITORS Alison Arnold, Columbia Blue Mountain RC&D and RARE Sarah Burford, Columbia Plateau Food Links Cynthia Eardley, CAPECO and OCAC COLLABORATORS Paula Chavez, CAPECO Sharon Thornberry, Oregon Food Bank Wheeler County Local Food Committee i
  3. 3. FOREWARDWhen the first settlers came to Oregon they were amazed by the rich soil, abundant water supply and eventhe islands of productivity in Oregon’s deserts. They were thrilled with the crops, fruits and berries theywere able to raise, the rich pastureland, as well as the streams teaming with fish and the bounty of wildgame available to feed a growing population. It would have been impossible for them to believe thatanyone could be hungry or food insecure in this land of plenty. It is incredible that hunger and foodinsecurity abound in Oregon nearly two centuries later. In fact, many of the areas that seemed so bountifulto those early settlers have the least access to food today.Two years ago the Oregon Food Bank in partnership with University of Oregon Resource Assistance forRural Environments AmeriCorps program began to conduct community food assessments in some ofOregon’s rural counties. Very few community food assessment efforts have been undertaken in ruralAmerica with a county by county approach. The report you are about to read is a result of conversationswith the people who make Oregon’s rural communities and their food systems so very unique. Thesereports are also a gift from a small group of very dedicated young people who have spent the last yearlistening, learning and organizing. It is our sincere hope, that these reports and organizing efforts will helpOregonians renew their vision and promise of the bountiful food system that amazed those early settlers. Sharon Thornberry Community Resource Developer Oregon Food Bank ii
  4. 4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTSBeyond our main collaborators, we acknowledge the support of the many community members whocommitted time and energy to the research, outreach, organizing and reviews of community foodexpansion and this Assessment. In this abbreviated list we include local county governments, teachers,and staff from agencies and organizations that serve the communities we visited, to farmers, gardeners,farmers market organizers, local food groups and individuals who care about the places they live in andthe health and well-being of their friends and neighbors. The Gilliam-Morrow-Umatilla WheelerCommunity Food Assessment is dedicated to the people of these Counties and the inspiration and hardwork theyve undertaken for local food security and local food systems development iii
  5. 5. TABLE OF CONTENTSTHE ASSESSMENT TEAM ......................................................................................................................... iFOREWARD ................................................................................................................................................ iiACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................................................................................................... iiiTABLE OF CONTENTS ............................................................................................................................. ivExecutive Summary From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture and Food of Gilliam, Morrow,Umatilla and Wheeler Counties................................................................................................................... 1INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 2Community Food Security ............................................................................................................................ 2Community Food Assessment ...................................................................................................................... 2Our Assessment ............................................................................................................................................ 3About This Report......................................................................................................................................... 5CHAPTER 1—THE FOODSHED ............................................................................................................... 6CHAPTER 2—GILLIAM COUNTY .......................................................................................................... 7 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................... 7 People ........................................................................................................................................................ 8 Agriculture .............................................................................................................................................. 10 Food......................................................................................................................................................... 12Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................. 16Opportunities in Gilliam County................................................................................................................. 17CHAPTER 3—MORROW COUNTY ....................................................................................................... 19 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 19 People ...................................................................................................................................................... 20 Agriculture .............................................................................................................................................. 22 Food......................................................................................................................................................... 24Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................. 30Opportunities in Morrow County................................................................................................................ 31CHAPTER 4—UMATILLA COUNTY ..................................................................................................... 33 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 33 People ...................................................................................................................................................... 34 Agriculture .............................................................................................................................................. 37 Food......................................................................................................................................................... 40 iv
  6. 6. Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................. 45Opportunities in Umatilla County ............................................................................................................... 46CHAPTER 5—WHEELER COUNTY ....................................................................................................... 48 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 48 People ...................................................................................................................................................... 49 Agriculture .............................................................................................................................................. 51 Food......................................................................................................................................................... 53Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................. 57Opportunities in Wheeler County ............................................................................................................... 58CHAPTER 6—REGIONAL ASSESSMENT ............................................................................................ 60 PEOPLE .................................................................................................................................................. 61 AGRICULTURE ..................................................................................................................................... 62 FOOD ...................................................................................................................................................... 65CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................................... 66Opportunities in the Regional Foodshed .................................................................................................... 68CHAPTER 7—DEVELOPMENT OF THE STUDY ................................................................................. 71Data Source ................................................................................................................................................. 71Methodology ............................................................................................................................................... 71Limitations and Value of the Study ............................................................................................................ 71glossary ....................................................................................................................................................... 72WORKS CITED ......................................................................................................................................... 73APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................................ 75 v
  7. 7. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY FROM OUR ROOTS: THE PEOPLE, AGRICULTURE ANDFOOD OF GILLIAM, MORROW, UMATILLA AND WHEELER COUNTIESCovering four east-central Oregon counties, Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla and Wheeler, this Community FoodAssessment (CFA) From Our Roots, was ambitious and large-scale. It skimmed the surface of assets andopportunities in the region (including a look across the Columbia River to the northern part of this foodshed).The effort helps address ever-growing nutrition-related health problems, diminished rural agriculturaleconomies and food insecurity across the region. It is driven, in part, by the fact that the Community ActionProgram of East Central Oregon (CAPECO), in partnership with the Oregon Food Bank, supplies emergencyfood to regional residents here - over one million pounds in 2009 - a quantity that is growing, unsustainableand almost unbelievable, considering the vast amounts of food grown here.WHAT WE LOOKED FOR. This CFA rooted out opportunities to re-localize the food system , touchingbriefly on natural resources, economic prosperity and diversity, historical and cultural wealth, communityhealth, market expansion, infrastructural supports, and resiliency. We used three criteria to explore foodsecurity and opportunities: food access (how and where people can obtain local food); food availability (is itgrown, processed and distributed locally), and food affordability (given current economic realities, what wouldpeople be willing and able to buy). What we discovered is laid out in this report to revolve around thePEOPLE, the FARM economy, and the FOOD situation in each county.OUR FINDINGS. Using surveys, facilitated workshops and conversations we discovered how diverse, andbounteous this region is, as well as under-resourced and in need of specific, community-based activity, andbroad collaboration and vision around food system integration and development. Three of the four countiesare classified as frontier counties, complete with "food deserts". People with resources and transportation aregenerally well-fed, but co-exist with pockets of under-nourished, hungry or potentially insecure individualsand communities disadvantaged by the current trend of procuring food from distant sources and loss of localopportunity. And while cash receipts to farmers are generally high, they are still earning less than they did inthe 1970s, affecting every aspect of this predominantly rural agricultural region. The top three identified needswere for: 1) Expanded, more accessible and affordable year-round local food resources, including gardens,farm stands and markets, emergency resources and retail options; 2) Increased education and skills aroundgrowing, cooking, gardening, nutrition, shopping and hunting/harvesting (in that order) for all sectors of thecommunity; and 3) Strengthened community and regional networking, marketing and infrastructuraldevelopment.OUTCOMES. From this initial exploration, two first-ever regional Food & Farm Guides were produced tomarket and stimulate purchases from local growers. The food assessment team helped facilitate sharedpurpose, and vision, and identify assets in each community, raising the capacity of individuals and groups totake direct action on their own behalf. Each county received five to seven recommendations or"Opportunities" that were similar but reflected specific needs, strengths and assets present their communities,and food and farming systems. Next steps include the support of local champions and food groups, localpurchasing options, regional networks and action plans. All of which help to develop food awareness,appropriate alternative local and regional production and marketing opportunities, food system infrastructureand other synergistic local food projects. The hope is that this work will be reviewed, renewed and acted uponin regular intervals by the residents of each County, leading to increased funding, resource development andproject implementation helping communities in this region move from surviving to thriving. "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard Page | 1From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  8. 8. our food system. This community food securityINTRODUCTION movement is working towards building strongTHE FOOD SYSTEM. The United States is and resilient food systems through innovativeone of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet and diverse community partnerships.accessing enough healthy, fresh food to meetbasic nutritional needs is a critical issue faced by Community food security is defined as “allmillions of Americans. There are a number of citizens are able to obtain a safe, personallyreasons for food insecurity in the United States, acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainablethe primary causes being lack of employment food system that maximizes healthy choices,opportunities, low wages and increases in the community self-reliance and equal access forcost of living, energy and health care. But to everyone” (Hamm & Bellows, 2003). A foodtruly understand food insecurity, one must system can be broadly described as all of therecognize the vital role the structure of food processes involved with feeding people. Itsystem plays. Over the last 50 years our food includes growing, harvesting, processing,system has become increasingly global in its distributing, obtaining, consuming and disposingextent, leading to the industrialization and of food. These processes, in addition to theconsolidation of agriculture and all the social and cultural characteristics of acomponents of our food delivery system, and the community and relevant government policies,decline of small, embedded local farms, ranches, define a food system.and the food facilities and infrastructure that Food security exists when all people havebrings food from the field to the table. This physical, social and economic access at all timesleaves Americans and their food supply to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meetsvulnerable to forces beyond their control. The their dietary needs and food preferences for anloss of vibrant, local food systems and the day- active and healthy life via non-emergencyto-day reality of people’s inability to afford food sources. It also means that food is produced,have a significant impact on a secure, processed and distributed in ways that respectsustainable, safe food source - e.g. food security and protect the environment and workers whoor insecurity - throughout the country. produce it. Food insecurity is a lack ofIsolation and the lack of local food system sufficient food and proper nutrition, and covers ainfrastructure paired with persistent poverty and broad spectrum of hunger-related feelings andunemployment plague rural east-central Oregon behaviors, including fear of going hungry, andand have made food insecurity a critical issue the resulting, often compromised choices peoplefaced by many people throughout Gilliam, make to meet basic food and health needs.Morrow, Umatilla and Wheeler Counties. COMMUNITY FOODCOMMUNITY FOOD SECURITY ASSESSMENTFew people know where their food comes from, To overcome the narrow scope of conventionalthe conditions under which it is grown and food security work, the Community Foodraised or how it gets to the supermarket shelves. Assessment (CFA) has emerged as a researchWhile the disconnect between producers and method to provide a more holistic andconsumers continues to grow, many people comprehensive approach to understanding andacross the country are working towards creative, improving food security at local and regionallocalized solutions to the current problems with levels. A Community Food Assessment is Page | 2From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  9. 9. defined as “a collaborative and participatory the movement toward a more localized, locally-process that systematically examines a broad controlled and chosen food system.range of community food issues and assets, so asto inform change actions to make the community Recommendations that emerged for each countymore food secure” (Pothukuchi, Joseph, Burton, relate to the expansion of the following four& Fisher, 2002). elements of health, wealth, connections and capacity-building.A CFA tells the story of what is happening withfood in a community using varied and diverse In the long view, no nation is healthier than itsmethods. A CFA can help highlight the children, or more prosperous than its farmers".connections between the various sectors of a Harry Trumanfood system including production, processing,distribution, storage, consumption and disposal.It is a powerful tool to explore a range of food HEALTH. Our CFA revealed a great need tosystem issues, to provide opportunities for broad attend to health in all contexts. Nutritional datacommunity involvement and to create positive, showed that, regardless of age and incomelasting change. levels, health trends are in declining, and in particular, more obese and/or malnourishedOne way to define the success of a CFA is the seniors and children, higher rates of diabetes,degree to which it inspires the re-localization of and other weight-related diseases prevalent inthe food and farming system, in a way that the region. People here have expressed interestallows individuals and communities to in improving the health of themselves, theirparticipate and have more control over this basic families and communities, as well as the healthneed. With that comes several other tangible of the farms and farm land they depend on.benefits: improved health, wealth, connectionand community capacity, as described below. Health in the context of local food and farm systems often leads to the question of "sustainability"- sustainable communities,OUR ASSESSMENT agriculture, nature and the economy. We wereThis CFA, From Our Roots, focused on the food unable to address the wealth of the naturaland farming situations in Gilliam, Morrow, systems on which farming is built, though manyUmatilla and Wheeler Counties in east central other organizations have. Water, soil, speciesOregon. diversity and energy are critical, variable and changing around the region - sunlight and aridityTHE 3 As. We explored three criteria: might be the main common denominators!.. OurAvailability (is food grown, processed and bottom line is that, ultimately, sustainability isdistributed locally); Access (how and where about health - the on-going long-term health ofpeople can obtain local food); and Affordability the people, their food and lifestyles, living in(given current economic realities, what would enriched and adaptable environments with vitalpeople be willing and able to buy). living economies and communities. SustainableVery importantly, the term "local food" is used food and farming can be built upon the "triplein two ways: food not from a specific bottom-line" values of creating healthy people,geographically defined area, but that which planet and profits.travels the shortest distance possible fromfarmers field to consumers fork; and to identify Page | 3From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  10. 10. WEALTH. Economically speaking, cash vehicles, roads and paths evolved to servereceipts to farmers are generally high, but they different needs, from the human scale of foot-are still earning less than they did in the 1970s, and bicycles to the global scale sea and skyaffecting every aspect of this predominantly traffic. A diversified food system wouldrural agricultural region. To overcome rural optimally mimic that multi-scaled system, or aninsecurities, job creation is a priority, and environmental system, based on organicallyresuming greater control of the regions most on- evolving webs of interaction between manygoing, basic need for food builds naturally on different kinds of organisms and theirthe strengths, traditions and renewed environment, adapting for need, throughappreciation for eating home-grown food. We communication with each entity along the way.recognize, and heard a lot about, the value andwealth generated by large-scale production The connections made during this Communityagriculture in the region. We also learned that, Food Assessment are just the beginning of thewhere feasible, "local food" presents an redevelopment of a local communicationadditional, very valuable option in terms of network for many communities. With eachincreased economic value, diversity and social gathering or introduction creative conversationsbenefits to rural agro-economies. "Agri- and solutions developed as people shared theirpreneurialism" and "economic gardening" are stories, dreams, memories and challenges ofrecognized tools for diversifying the economy, food and farming. We heard the conversationand improving local wage and employment shift away from the top-down corporate-drivenopportunities. food chain which removes food from the farm, and control from producers and consumers, aOur conclusions focused on the presence or toward a more self-directed, locally-controlledpossibilities of a more diversified, small-scale, concept of a food web or network of interactionfood and farming economy to expand and and connection. Before our very eyes, farmerscompliment larger-scale, export-focused and customers of all sizes created relationships,production. This CFA identified significant processes, partnerships and new products,interest and participation in farm-direct meeting basic needs, generating ideas andproduction, marketing and purchasing in all four sharing risks. The social system (if rich incounties, which will be discussed in subsequent connections and "social capital") provides thechapters. basis for financial capital development; increased connectivity promotes increasedCONNECTION. Connections make our world adaptability and creativity. Deeper, morework, creatively, efficiently, adaptively. diverse connections expand the capacity for growth, change, resilience and success. “You have to look at connections. Our society runs on systems.” In other words, CAPACITY-BUILDING - The Gilliam County resident ultimate goal of our community-based food assessment is to expand a communitys ability toOur world is not built on A linear chain of take care of itself. In this case, to grow not justinteraction but networks and webs of interaction the food supply, but new leaders, relationships,between entities of many sizes. To use a and resources. A community with healthy sensefamiliar model, our transportation system - of itself, its diversity and commonalities, itscomprised of many different sizes of feet and limitations and strengths, has the ability to create opportunities to adapt and thrive, meeting the Page | 4From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  11. 11. human, economic and cultural needs of itsresidents over time. The ultimate blessing ofdeveloping and sustaining a healthy local foodsystem is that we grow more than food - we alsogrow Community.ABOUT THIS REPORTHOW WE DID IT. From September 2009 toJuly 2010 interviews and community meetingswere conducted throughout Gilliam, Morrow,Umatilla and Wheeler Counties. Numerousstakeholder meetings and five FEASTs wereconducted in three of the four counties. A"FEAST" - shortened from the words Food-Education-Agriculture Solutions Together- is astructured meeting designed by organizers at theOregon Food Bank to bring together local foodstakeholders for discussion and solutioncreation. Additionally, four focus groups wereconducted in the communities of Arlington,Fossil, Mitchell and Spray. Input was alsogathered via a consumer and producer surveythat was open to all residents in the four-countyarea.FORMAT. Information for each county isorganized and analyzed separately and dividedinto three general topic areas: People,Agriculture and Food. These broad headingsaddressed the issues uncovered by theCommunity Food Assessment, from historicalperspectives to the present day. We tried tocapture what was, what is, and what might beabout food, food systems, farming, hunger, longand short-term challenges and opportunities. SeeMethodology, Chapter 7, for more informationon the study design and implementation andreport development. Page | 5From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  12. 12. CHAPTER 1—THE FOODSHEDALL SYSTEMS GO. A "food system" is madeup of all the cultural beliefs, technical elementsand physical activities that serve to grow,deliver, sell, consume and dispose of food. Itincludes everyone from the farmers, to grocers,consumers, marketers, distributors, transporters,policy-makers and all who participates ingetting food from the field to the fork. A"foodshed" is all that plus the physical regionand natural resource base from which the food isproduced. The American foodshed ("foodprint") The region has a varying climate, but isis presently very large - global, in fact. Our food generally arid; except for increases inis produced in and shipped from every corner of precipitation along the foothills of the Blue andthe Earth. Food security or insecurity stems Ochoco Mountains most of the region is affectedfrom the amount of control over quantity and by the rain shadow effect of the Cascadequality of food that is available to people and Mountains. As weather fronts move eastwardcommunities. In the U.S., despite the appearance across Oregon much of the precipitation occursof plenty, we are subject to global, multi- on the west slopes of the Cascades leaving littlenational, climactic, political and economic precipitation for the counties east of thefluctuations, with very little control at the local mountains. This is particularly true for thelevel. Increased amounts of food produced and uplands of Gilliam, Morrow and westerndistributed in a more localized foodshed are Umatilla Counties. Areas that abut the Blueseen as one way to increase food security. Mountains, or lie within the Umatilla and John Day River flood plains benefit from theirNATURAL RESOURCE BASE. The four captured moisture, lower temperatures,counties of east central Oregon - Gilliam, precipitation and surface water. TheseMorrow, Umatilla and Wheeler - encompass a conditions feed the soil, waterways and crops,large area south of the Columbia River and north creating important diversity in climate, cropand west of the Blue Mountains. It is a region types and quantities.rich in history; it is the homeland of the Cayuse,Northern Paiute, Umatilla, Walla Walla and The Columbia River is the largest river in theWarm Springs tribes and original tracks from the Northwest. It makes up the northern boundary ofoverland migration along the Oregon Trail are Gilliam County, Morrow County and part ofstill visible in many places. The Columbia Umatilla County. It plays a central role in thePlateau is also rich in its agricultural activity. culture, economy and politics of the region. It isFarming and ranching were two of the original used for irrigation, power generation and aeconomic mainstays of white settlement. They major transportation corridor. It is particularlycontinue to play a critical role in the region. The important for transportation as the Columbiaphysical landmass for this CFA is depicted in Plateau is the largest wheat producing region inthe above map, and is comprised of the four the state and much of the wheat crop is shippedcounties in CAPECOs food-related service area. down the Columbia on barges. Page | 6From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla &Wheeler Counties, Oregon
  13. 13. CHAPTER 2—GILLIAM COUNTY WHEAT FIELDS AND WINDMILLS IN GILLIAM COUNTYIntroduction incorporated communities—Arlington, Condon and Lonerock. The most residents within theLocated in the heart of the Columbia Plateau County live in Arlington or Condon.region, Gilliam County was historicallyimportant as a transportation corridor for the The climate varies throughout the County, but itregion’s Native American tribes traveling to and is generally an arid region. Precipitation variesfrom fishing, hunting, gathering and trading from an average of 9 inches in Arlington to 14grounds. The first white settlers to the region inches a year in Condon (Taylor, 2000). Strongcame through on the Oregon Trail and, in the winds are common in the Columbia Riverlate 19th century, began to put down roots in Gorge, as evidenced by the wind millsGilliam County. blanketing large swaths of northern Gilliam County.Gilliam County is bounded by the ColumbiaRiver to the north, the John Day River to the It is the second least populous county in Oregon,west and the foothills of the Blue Mountains to after Wheeler County to the south, with onlythe southeast. Much of the county sits high atop 1,645 people living within its borders (Indicatorsthe Plateau; it ranges in elevation of over 3,000 Northwest, 2009). This low population densityfeet near Condon down to 285 feet at Arlington gives Gilliam County, and all the counties thaton the Columbia River. There are threeFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 7
  14. 14. surround it, the designation of a frontier county Since 2000 Gilliam County has lost -14.1% of(Frontier Education Center, 1998). its population, the second highest rate of loss in the state of Oregon. What is particularlyGilliam County’s primary economic drivers are concerning about the decreasing population isagriculture, construction, government services that nearly all of it (-12%) is attributed to out-and waste management. Agriculture is the top migration; people moving out of the Countyemployment sector with 16.2% of the workforce (Indicators Northwest, 2009).employed in agriculture. A close second isconstruction, employing 16% of the workforce Out-migration is a serious issue in rural(Indicators Northwest, 2008). This is an increase communities. There is much documentation onof over 5% from 2007, due to the recent large the ripple effects of out migration and the impactincrease in wind energy development. it can have on the economy and community. When rural communities lose critical services,Gilliam County’s economy is diversified to a residents have to drive to other service centers ingreater degree than many of its neighbors. By the region and while there, often do all of theirthe numbers, it appears to be more stable and shopping, exporting much needed income andlikely to have food secure individuals and wealth to the urban areas and leaving our ruralcommunities. Conversations with people areas wondering what happened and where itthroughout the County revealed that that went.assumption is not necessarily completelyaccurate. With the wealth generated from the Traveling and talking with residents with peopleindustries within its borders Gilliam County throughout the County uncovered stories ofappears to be well situated and capable of people struggling to make ends meet, andhaving purposeful conversations about food and oftentimes going without meals or foregoingfarm opportunities that benefit its residents, and medical care just to make ends meet each month.increase food security at the individual and Senior citizens, in particular, were identified as acommunity level. vulnerable group. So, while on the surface it appears that Gilliam County does not have manyPeople issues, the reality of not knowing where the nextBy the numbers, Gilliam County seems to have meal is coming from exists for some residents.few of the issues that most counties east of the “Seniors have the choice of eating or beingCascades confront on a regular basis. While ithas some of the lowest unemployment and warm.” Condon residentpoverty rates in the state, several themes arose inthat are of concern; Gilliam County is losing It is an aging population; there are lots of seniorpopulation, the population is aging, has a lack of citizens. 23.4% of the County population is 65job opportunities, underemployment, lack of years and older, the 4th highest rate in the state.opportunities for youth and isolation. There was concern about this trend by nearly every one interviewed. While many of theseFor a snap shot of information and statistics seniors are well taken care of, there were storiesplease see ADDRESSING HUNGER in Gilliam of shut-ins, widows and people living alone onCounty, 2009, page 13. fixed incomes and uncertainty of how they were living and feeding themselves.From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 8
  15. 15. Another consideration is the aging population is landfills on the northern end of the Countythe importance of volunteers in the communities. receive large amounts of waste from throughoutMost volunteers are retired and/or senior the Pacific Northwest. Yet as the nationalcitizens, leaving many services performed by economy slowed, so did the waste coming intovolunteers to be manned by a aging and the landfills. People are buying less so they’redwindling populations. Both Arlington and throwing away less. An increase in recycling hasCondon echoed the importance of volunteers to also affected the landfills, resulting in lesssustain efforts and services, particularly for activity and less money flowing into the County.those in need. Yet, as volunteers age there isconcern for the future sustainability of efforts Hundreds of jobs have been created to build thethat are critical to community functions and wind farms, but many of the employees comesupports. In Condon, we were told that they from outside of the region. Furthermore, many“don’t have the volunteers to sustain services of the jobs are short-term construction jobs. Sonow needed.” And in Arlington food pantry outside of agriculture, waste management, windvolunteers believe that “this town would come to development and government services there arescreeching halt without volunteerism.” These are very few jobs to be had in Gilliam County.important things to consider as the population Many residents piece together multiple jobs tocontinues to age. make ends meet. One resident of Arlington expressed her frustration at the difficulty finding “I would love to go back to work.” and retaining full time employment; “I kept a Arlington focus group participant job because of my tenacity.” Under-employment is a common occurrence inGilliam County also has one of the lowest rates rural communities, but not nearly as visible orof population under the age of 18 in the state. discussed as unemployment. Many people workThis was echoed by many people interviewed; temporary or part time service industry jobs.one young mother described Condon as “a These are the jobs that rarely come with benefitsfamily town, there is history here.” Yet, there are such as health insurance and retirement, assuringfewer young families and children and many the issues will only get more difficult over time.attribute this trend to the lack of jobopportunities in the County. There was muchconjecture about the unemployment rate beingso low because there are no jobs, so people leaveor do not move to Gilliam County, keeping thepopulation rates low in a vicious cycle.WEALTH. In June 2010 its unemployment rateof 7.0% was the lowest in the state (WorksourceOregon, 2010). Yet stories of a slowingeconomy and underemployment were common. CONDON CHILDCARE GARDEN - "GROWING MINDS"!Waste management services are an important Another issue concerning many residents is thesector of Gilliam County’s economy. The lack of opportunities and activities for youth.County levies a fee on the waste and uses it to And specific to food, many people raised thesupport property tax payments for residents and concern that youth need to be educated onfunds county projects. Two waste disposal growing and raising food and the importance ofFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 9
  16. 16. good nutrition. While Condon has an active FFA visits to the food pantry, community meals andprogram that started a garden at the high school social activities that are beneficial for health.last year, Arlington does not. This is not One rural resident told us that “I can do a lot ofsurprising as many communities and schools stretching” but the existing services don’thave lost agriculture educational opportunities necessarily cover the entire month. This mayover time. It is an important outlet for youth mean going without critical services, such athough, and there is interest in bringing it back. medical attention, as well. “Our kids around here have nothing to do. If Many of these people are on SNAP, but their you don’t play sports you’re flat out of luck.” food supply often dwindles by the end of the Gilliam County employee month and they have to use the food pantry. This is a common and regular occurrence. As one social service worker explained “emergencyHEALTH. The Center for Disease Control (US food has become a regular, sustaining foodDept. of Health and Human Services) tracked source for many pantry clients.”Gilliam County residents increasing rates ofdiabetes and obesity between 2004 and 2007. “Not being able to provide for your family isThe numbers rose, from 6.6% to 6.9%, and a very personal thing.”23.4% to 26.1% respectively. Thankfully, Condon residenteducation for everyone in the community wasalso identified as an important next step. Thetwo most sought after education opportunities While this need is a source of embarrassment foridentified in the consumer survey were nutrition many working families, it is also the reality of(36%) and gardening (32%). This was seconded living in remote and isolated rural communitiesby many people that were interviewed. Pantry without ready access to fresh, healthy local foodvolunteers in both Arlington and Condon sources. It is difficult to get those in need tiedstressed the need to educate their clients in meal into the service net and we were told that schoolplanning and preparation. While the food pantry employees “have to hound families to sign upvolunteers and clients would like to see more for free- and reduced-price lunches for theirfresh products, they don’t necessarily have children.” Echoing this sentiment, DHSsupplies to cook with and don’t know how to employee told of families struggling to keepcook it. food in the fridge yet not utilizing SNAP.Lastly, an issue that has already been touched on Agriculturebut is an important consideration in this work is From the beginning of white settlement,the vulnerability of population groups, or entire agriculture has been central to culture and thecommunities, living in isolation in rural areas. economy of Gilliam County. The earliest settlersGilliam is a "frontier" county (fewer than 6 brought cattle with them over the Oregon Trailpeople per square mile), with food sources more and planted grains that were suited to the drythan ten miles from many homes and towns. climate. There were also “many good fruitMany of locals shop at the local grocery stores orchards” within the County (Fourth State ofbecause they don’t have the ability to drive to Oregon Biennial Report, 1911, p.130).larger towns where groceries may be cheaper. Grain and cattle remain the mainstays ofTransportation is an issue throughout the region. agriculture in Gilliam County, while theMany folks shared that they may also forego orchards that once existed have all but vanished.From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 10
  17. 17. Wheat is the principal crop; there are over There was concern expressed by a number of97,000 acres planted. Barley and cattle are also people interviewed that the family structure ofimportant contributors to the agricultural farms is changing as well; farmers continue toeconomy. The sale of grains, oilseeds, dry beans get older and the average age is now 59.5 years.and dry peas is valued at nearly $25 million and Many residents also expressed concern that it iscattle and calf sales are valued at $6.4 million a difficult for the next generation to stay on theyear (Census of Agriculture, 2007). farm. It is much more likely that these farms supported multiple generations in the past thanGilliam County has 164 farms with an average they do today. Inheriting the farm or starting outsize of just over 4,200 acres; the second largest as a beginning farmer is fraught with financialaverage in the state (Census of Agriculture, complexities and oftentimes insurmountable2007). While there is anecdotal evidence to barriers.suggest that there is a trend of fewer people “The era of kids working on farms is a thingfarming larger acreages, there are 10 more farmstoday than there were in 1987 and they are, on of the past.” Gilliam County employeeaverage, 800 acres smaller (Highlights of Gilliam County GrocerAgriculture, 1992 & 1987). In 1984 the Conservation Reserve Program (which pays farmers to move sensitive and fragile lands from productive to protection FARMS IN GILLIAM COUNTY status) was implemented. As one resident 164 farms on 733,387 acres. shared, it has had long lasting effects on the Estimated value of land and building per agricultural economy in Gilliam County. A BY THE NUMBERS farm is $2.0 million and $443 per great deal of land was taken out of production to acre. be placed in the program. This resulted in the Total production expenses in the loss of agricultural infrastructure including feed, county is $28 million; average fuel, and maintenance businesses. Losing these production expenses per farm is businesses and the infrastructure, jobs and $171,271 and $38 per acre. income that came with them, she shared, was Total net cash income in the county is damaging and had unmeasured impacts on the $17 million; average of $104,719 regional economy. As noted below, wind per farm and $23 per acre. farming could have a similar effect. Gilliam County and its farmers have not sat idlyIt is important to note though, that this data does by as time and circumstances have changednot tell the complete story of the changing face around them though. There are several groupsof farming in Gilliam County. While the average working within the county to change the systemsize of farms has decreased over time, many of how wheat is grown and marketed. One of thefarms have indeed grown in size. This does not successes highlighted by many is the Gilliamequate to increased income for the farmer County Grain Quality Laboratory. Located nearthough. As one resident suggested; when farms Arlington, the Laboratory works to increase theget bigger, they “are not more lucrative, there viability and success of local growers by helpingare not greater margins by expanding; it takes them value to their products.more inputs and is more expensive.” A more recent means of income generation on farm land in Gilliam County is revenue fromFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 11
  18. 18. wind development. Many farmers receive lease more than a few plants. It is more than just waterpayments from wind companies for the wind scarcity that affects growing conditions though,mills placed on their land. While these lease the varying climate plays a large role as well.payments have helped some farmers, others The longest growing seasons are in Arlingtonshared that they have served more as a stopgap and along a few lower elevation creeks. Condonand didn’t necessarily increased the farm’s and much of the county are at a high elevationincome. As one farmer explained, wind benefits and therefore experience higher fluctuations inhelp the land owner because it “puts stability temperatures and are more likely to have aunder the farm”. This is not necessarily an killing frost in late spring and early fall.increase in the expendable income, but it cankeep the farm from going further into debt. ALTERNATIVE AG. These limitations appearLand lease revenues will also allow some to be the main reasons that there are very fewfarmers to retire, which might diminish the total farmers growing for a local market. The U.S.amount of land under cultivation, or related Agriculture Census data (2007) counted sevenagro-economic activities in the county. Gilliam farms that grow fruits and vegetables on an unknown number of acres. We were not ableGilliam County grows an enormous amount of to find them during our investigation. Just a fewfood, far more than the county or state people were identified in the course of thisconsumes. While large scale, export-based project that grow or raise food to sell directly toconventional agriculture is a strength of Gilliam consumers within the region - several ranchersCounty and is critical to its economy, it doesn’t sell live or on the hoof, a blueberry grower and afeed the people that live within its borders. niche market wheat farmer direct-market to customers. Even the regular produce vendor at the Condon Community Farmers’ Market last year is not from Gilliam County, but came up every month from Wheeler County. Market supporters explain that it is “difficult getting local growers; sometimes we struggle to get just one vendor.” This lack of a locally or regionally focused food system leaves Gilliam County vulnerable to forces beyond their control, but also presents an GILLIAM COUNTY WHEAT FIELDS opportunity as consumers expressed interest in buying more locally produced food.It is not easy to grow crops Gilliam County,especially produce. In this arid region, water Foodscarcity is a serious limiting factor. In Condonwells have to be drilled hundreds of feet to reach The lack of locally-focused food and farmwater. And while Arlington was described as the activities and resources in Gilliam County is“banana belt” of the county, watering when the concerning when viewed through the lens ofwind is blowing, which is much of the time, was food security. There is very little food locallydescribed as foolish. Not only is watering grown available, yet there are several importantdifficult because of these factors, but those on pieces of the food system still funtioning.city water shared that it is too expensive to growFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 12
  19. 19. EMERGENCY FOOD. Nearly 70% of Gilliam Grocery stores in both towns accept SNAP andCounty residents live in Arlington and Condon WIC benefits. The Condon Communityand thus have good access to a relatively stable Farmers’ Market has a vendor that acceptsfood supply. Both towns have a food pantry and FDNP coupons and WIC vouchers. Outside offunctioning grocery stores. Residents are these sources, there are no other markets tofortunate to have this level of access to food; it access food in Gilliam County.is better than that of many of the surroundingcommunities in the region. The remaining 30% “Big stores out of town are the biggestof residents are not as fortunate though, as they threat.” Gilliam County grocerhave to travel to access food supplies and otherservices. The issues faced by rural independent grocers need to be better understood and moreThe pantries in Arlington and Condon are open thoughtfully considered by communityone day a month. Combined, they served 742 members. There were many complaints aboutemergency food boxes last year to 3090 people, shopping in local stores including “when youa 9% increase from 2008.There were stories of shop in town you have to get the stuff that ispeople missing the once-per-month distribution cheap; the fruits and vegetables are tooday because of time, travel and other conflicts expensive.” Another consumer went so far as toand challenges. Perhaps the two food pantries say, “When we shop here it costs an arm and amight explore being open more than one day a leg.”month to make it easier for clients to accessfood. Higher price are typically the reality of shopping in rural grocery stores, and Gilliam County is noGROCERY STORES. Rural grocery stores exception. These stores face barriers that chainhave received much coverage and recognition in stores in large towns and along transportationrecent years. Many communities have lost their corridors do not. In all of the interviews, Twogrocery stores or have stores that are not Boys was described as the exception; manyresponsive to community members. This is people do the majority of their shopping there.distressing because grocery stores are often the There were even stories of people from Fossilcornerstones of viable downtown or commercial coming to Condon to shop. The hard work anddistricts and if they fail, many other businesses commitment to high quality products andare at risk of failure as well. Vulnerable competitive prices were cited as reasons for theirpopulations are put at more risk as well because success. As one resident voice, “as far as fruitthey may not have a car, the time or money to and veggies go, you can’t beat them.”travel to towns far away to buy groceries. There are opportunities for growth in the retailArlington has Thrifty Foods and Condon has sector in Gilliam County. One store ownertwo grocery stores, B & C Grocery and Two shared that “[residents] don’t realize that ifBoys Meat and Grocery. All of these stores are another 25% of the population shopped hereindependently owned and operated. Each plays we’d build a bigger store. But they don’t thinkan important role in their local economy, like that.” Most people are driving to Theproviding access to food, stability for the local Dalles, Hermiston or Tri Cities for groceries.business environment and providing jobs.Interestingly, we learned that Two Boys is the When asked where residents get the majority oflargest private employer in Condon. their food, after grocery stores, 56% of theFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 13
  20. 20. consumer survey respondents said “sit-down food needs. Several people believe that there arerestaurant” and “grow it or raise it”. Although it policy and regulation changes that need to bewas generally agreed that people don’t have implemented to increase the consumption ofmoney to eat out anymore, and restaurants are wild foods, but most survey respondents (48%)hurting because of it. Arlington is the exception were interested in identifying, cooking andas there has been a large influx of workers preserving educational opportunities.building Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, a projectthat will be the largest land-based wind farm in So while there are good things happening aroundthe world when it is completed. the local food economy, the number one reason (95%) why people in Gilliam County don’t buy “Nothing is more rewarding than to plant a local food is that is it not available. Exploring seed and watch it grow and produce.” and supporting community-focused food and Rural county resident farm opportunities should be a next step for the communities. There was much interest in increasing the production of local food, and theGrowing and raising food for personal survey revealed that the top two things thatconsumption appears to be very important to the Gilliam County residents want are communitypeople in Gilliam County. Many people still gardens and farmers’ markets.grow their own food, but not without difficultybecause of water scarcity, the price of water inthe city and the climatic conditions. In Condon,another looming issue is the outdated city watersystem. It may need to be completely replaced in10-15 years and could have untold effects onavailability and cost of water for city residentsHistorically, animals were raised for personalconsumption, but it is no longer a commonpractice. A policy issue that arose was theinability of residents to raise animals withinCondon city limits. Gilliam County has always CONDON COMMUNITY FARMERS’ MARKETbeen indelibly linked to agriculture, yet severalresidents expressed their disappointment in not People want more fresh local food and it’s timebeing able to raise animals for themselves. for the County to come together and assure that there is more access to food for everyone within “I can’t even have a chicken in my backyard. the county no matter where they live or how You can have a chicken in downtown much money they have. Portland, but not in Condon.” For a snap shot of food and hunger statistics Condon “farming girl” please see "ADDRESSING HUNGER IN GILLIAM COUNTY (2009)", next page.Hunting and fishing are important food sourcesin Gilliam County. Fifty-six percent of surveyrespondents consider hunting, fishing orharvesting of wild food to be “somewhat” or“very” important to meeting their householdFrom Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 14
  21. 21. ADDRESSING HUNGER in Gilliam County, 2009GILLIAM COUNTY Oregon  In these hard economic times, many more people are hungry, especially children and seniors.  Federal food programs can help feed people and provide economic stimulus for local economies.  Gilliam County could bring in millions more federal dollars by reaching more eligible people. School Lunches, Breakfast, & SNAP/ Food Stamps Summer Meals In 2008 ~  146 people received SNAP/food stamps per month in Gilliam County.  $145,977 federal dollars were brought into the local economy. If all eligible people were enrolled in SNAP, Gilliam County would have received an additional $122,879 dollars each month in federal money and 171 additional people would have received help putting food on the table.In 2008 ~42.9% of all students were eligible for free HOW YOU CAN HELPand reduced price meals in Gilliam County. Of thosewho ate lunch:  Support public policies that help low-income  51% received school breakfast. people meet their basic needs.  None ate meals through the Summer Food  Support efforts to reach more people through Program. federal food assistance programs. If all who were eligible for free or reduced price lunch  Refer to the Act to End Hunger for more were served, Gilliam County would have received an ideas to address hunger in your county. For specific information additional $10,485 in federal dollars a year and fed an visitwww.oregonhunger.org additional 24 eligible low-income children. Women, Infants & Emergency Farm Direct AfterschoolChildren Program (WIC0*) Food Assistance Nutrition Program Meals & SnacksIn 2008, WIC served 7,072 In 2008, 680 food boxes Seniors and WIC families During the 2007/08 schoolpregnant or breast- provided emergency food redeemed $0 in the county year, 0 suppers werefeeding women, infants to help families make ends to buy fresh produce in served in high need areas.and children * under five, meet. 2008. Coupons may haverepresenting 45% of all been redeemed in nearbypregnant women (compared counties * WIC data for Gilliam County cannot be extracted from Umatilla – Marrow Head Start datato 40% statewide average). Gilliam County Demographic Information Total Population: 1,885 Children 0-18 years: 401  People in Poverty: 209 (11.1%)  Children in Poverty: 69 or (17.1%) From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 15
  22. 22. opportunities for youth to stay or return areCONCLUSION critical for the future health and wealth of theirWhen viewed through the lens of food security, communities.Gilliam County faces some serious issues. Yetthese issues are not unique to this county alone; “Perseverance is something that we’vemany of the food availability, accessibility and really lost.” Gilliam County farmeraffordability issues they face are common acrosseastern Oregon. In order to increase self-sufficiency and foodFor well over a hundred years wheat has been security for all residents and at the communitycentral to culture and the economy of Gilliam level many solutions were identified by theCounty. An enormous amount of wheat is grown residents of Gilliam County. Many are hopeful,within the County, and it is indelibly linked to yet recognize that to truly made headway thatglobal export markets. Yet, while this is a great “people have to begin to think differently andeconomic strength, very little food is grown long term.” This is beginning to happen aroundwithin the County for local consumption. Most food.of the food consumed comes in on truck from The opportunities outlined next incorporateplaces far away. many of those ideas offered throughout ourGilliam County has the lowest unemployment interviews, meetings and focus groups inrate in Oregon, a statistic of which many are Arlington, Condon and the County. The peopleproud. Yet stories shared with us revealed that that live within these communities are bestthe reality on the ground is much different than prepared to know what solutions are mostwhat the numbers tell. Gilliam County is in a achievable and needed, which is why most of thesteady population decline and the average age of action steps outlined here of from theresidents, and farmers, continues to grow. This community themselves. As it was so well put bywas a great concern of many of those we spoke one rural resident, “we have to do it ourselves; itwith because they realize that having has to come from here.”From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 16
  23. 23. OPPORTUNITIES IN GILLIAM COUNTYRecommendation 1: Increase outreach and networking around local food and farm opportunities.1. Establish a communication and support network to facilitate the sharing of ideas and resources.2. Connect with regional and state networks to further community food and farm efforts.3. Develop and implement a public education campaign on the benefits of healthy eating habits and a local food system.Recommendation 2: Expand educational opportunities for community members.1. Identify, and distribute cooking and meal planning materials at food pantries.2. Identify, and coordinate with gardening and agricultural education resources to increase gardening and agricultural entrepreneurial skills.3. Identify and coordinate with current nutrition educators and experts to implement projects to increase understanding and the practice of healthy eating habits.4. Identify existing, or develop educational resources to build knowledge about hunting, fishing and harvesting wild foods; specific areas might include identification, cooking, preservation, rights and responsibilities.Recommendation 3: Explore and support community-focused food and farm opportunities, ideasand resources.1. Recognize community and economic development through local food as a legitimate strategy.2. Encourage the development of community gardens, and the success and expansion of existing gardens.3. Identify and consider small scale production strategies.4. Encourage development of more local food and farm entrepreneurial opportunities, specifically CSAs, farm stands, meat slaughter and processing, U-pick and value-added enterprises.Recommendation 4: Increase the number of venues featuring local or regionally produced food.1. Establish, expand and support farmers’ markets as a way to provide regular access to fresh, local or regional food.2. Explore interest in farm-to-school programs, and establish where feasible.3. Identify institutional food purchasers and engage and educate them about purchasing locally or regionally produced food.From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 17
  24. 24. 4. Increase the amount of local or regionally produced food available in grocery stores and restaurants.Recommendation 5: Ensure regular access to a stable fresh food supply for all citizens year-round.1. Increase the amount of fresh food available at food pantries.2. Establish FDNP and WIC Fruit and Veggie Voucher retailers in every community.3. Increase knowledge and understanding of the SNAP program.4. Establish programs that feed children including summer lunch, fresh snacks, breakfast, dinner and weekend meals.5. Ensure that food is considered in the County emergency management plans.6. Establish appropriate gleaning options at all levels of the food system, when and wherever possible.From Our Roots: The People, Agriculture & Food of Gilliam County, OR Page | 18
  25. 25. CHAPTER 3—MORROW COUNTY HAYFIELDS AND WINDMILLS IN NORTH MORROW COUNTY Introduction county - which receive approximately 8 inches annually. Land of sunshine, deep soils and minimal water, this county has provided rich hunting, gathering, Morrow is the second largest in both population grazing and farming opportunities for centuries. and land mass of the four counties in this study, It comprises the southern-most edge of the and boasts five incorporated towns, seven Columbia Plateau, and the western-most portion unincorporated towns, and the ghost town of of the Confederated Umatilla Tribes Ceded Hardman. Of the 11,553 county residents, just Lands, with treaty- protected rights of use to this over 7,000 are counted as residents in the day. It is now home to residents of all stripes and incorporated towns. This leaves another four colors, employed largely in food and farming- thousand individuals living in very rural or based economic activities and lifestyles. unincorporated areas, perhaps far from food and community resources. The County population Like its neighbors to the south and south-west has fluctuated up and down by approximately (Gilliam, Grant and Wheeler), "rugged county" 10% over the past decade. But overall, in is both the official and informal motto of this contrast to the other counties, it has almost county, and it is well-earned. High rolling and tripled in population the past 30 years. wind-swept hills bisected with deep furrowed canyons create a sense of both expansiveness Approximately half of the countys residents live and seclusion. On its south flank rise the Blue in the two northern towns of Irrigon and Mountains, supplying up to 16 inches of Boardman. These towns are connected by three precipitation per year to land and out-flowing enormous transportation systems - the Columbia streams. This is twice the amount of rainfall River, transcontinental rail lines and the received in the central and north sections of the Interstate highway. These arterials provide in-From Our Roots: The People Agriculture & Food of Morrow County, OR Page | 19
  26. 26. and outflow of goods and people, an ebb and Boardman, two gas-fired plants at the Port, flow of money and opportunities that form the geothermal and even methane digesters. And as basis of a lucrative port and transport-based in other wind-swept high Plateau counties, you export economy. Perhaps because of these will now see giant windmills tilting at a new physical connections, the communities and kind of energy. individuals of the north relate more closely to their eastern Umatilla neighbors, with whom People they share many similarities in climate, The people of Morrow County have come from demographics and agricultural opportunities. all walks of life and all parts of the world. The dryer southern half of Morrow, in contrast, Native cultures have variously lived with and/or is defined by the canyons and moderate flows of clashed with newcomers, a pattern repeating and Willow Creek and its tributaries, tying together reversing itself through time and history with several small towns (Heppner, Lexington, Ione) waves of new immigrants and ethnicities. like beads on a string. Through distance and This section explores what our assessments other geographic features these towns are identified as the important "people", or social relatively isolated - geographically, socially and capital elements: diversity, education, health and economically - from the populous and diverse cultural identity. For a snap shot of demographic northern "micropolitan" areas along the I-84 and hunger information and statistics, please see corridor. The residents here resemble and relate "ADDRESSING HUNGER in Morrow County, to their historic wheat farming and ranching 2009", page 27. neighbors on the high Columbia Plateau. This cultural and geographic distance between north South Morrow County residents have cultivated and south creates a complex picture for and preserved a lively, relatively European addressing farm and food opportunities and food cultural and farming heritage (Irish, Basque, security challenges in this county. Welsh, Scottish, Swedish, to name a few that figure in the mix), with long, deep relationships within their communities and to the "rugged country" they live in. This appears to supports a strong sense of cohesion, self-sufficiency and care for each other. And perhaps, a sense of insularity. Relative homogeneity makes it easier to identify and perhaps organize around specific needs and opportunities in the southern area, which we COLUMBIA RIVER IN NEAR IRRIGON understand is the norm here. Yet this can also Principal industries in the county today include make it more difficult to identify and implement agriculture, lumber, livestock, and recreation, change if there are cultural barriers to bringing with agriculture employing upwards of 22% of in new resources and ideas. the population. Morrow may also be unique in the representative energy facilities and the On the other end, the northern portion of the employment opportunities they bring - hydro- county has drawn significant numbers of new electric dams, a coal-fired generating plant in people from outside the region to work in the government, agricultural and manufacturingFrom Our Roots: The People Agriculture & Food of Morrow County, OR Page | 20
  27. 27. sectors. Expanding Hispanic and other minority A large number (82%) of respondents surveyed populations have found a niche in Morrows expressed concern with poor diet and nutrition in entry-level and subsistence work opportunities, the county. It is encouraging to note that riding a roller-coaster of needs and cooking, gardening, health and nutrition opportunities. Not only does this influence the concerns also ranked relatively high: sixty-eight socio-economic and ethnic mix, it has increased percent of the respondents requested increased the number of young people enrolled in schools, education around gardening, nutrition, food in other programs for youth and families, and in cooking and preservation and the job market. The demand for services and food are more visible, and more visibly met in Also heartening are the number of good ways to the north. Here diversity - of language, culture, meet the health, nutrition and education need experience and education - make it more that are very close to home. difficult to identify, categorize and meet needs. When volunteering with the High School I met CONNECTIVITY. There did not appear to be students who had never peeled a vegetable or strong connections between north and south, sliced an onion. They loved the opportunity which hinders communication, awareness, trust and wished something like home economics and creative solution-building for the county as a was available so that they could learn these whole. Capacity for growth and resilience at the basic skills." - OSU Extension volunteer county-level is limited when connectivity is limited. In addition to school breakfasts and summer HEALTH. A number of statistics provide a feeding programs, many schools around the snapshot of the relative health and quality of life region have long had gardens and greenhouses. for individuals and families here. First, Classroom activities of the Future Farmers of education plays an important part in America and 4-H programs utilize them as part employment and earnings, in health and well- of their agricultural education. South Morrow being: in 2009, Morrow County registered the County (Ione and Heppner) has two such highest number of adults without high school programs in their schools that provide diplomas (over 25%), and second highest exceptional skill-building, entrepreneurial and unemployment rate of 8.7%. As a whole, opportunities for their students, and potentially Morrow County has a higher rate of children and for their school food and nutrition programs. elders in poverty - 20% and 10%, respectively - They stand as good examples for others to learn compared to the rest of the region and state. In from. Another educational resource is the OSU some county school districts, over 94% of the Extension Service which provides agricultural, children qualify for free and reduced price food and nutrition training. The Master meals, while in other districts the numbers hover Gardeners program has a number of trained in the 30% range. volunteers in this county; along with Of our four counties, Morrow has the highest independent gardening clubs there is good rate of diabetes in the Counties studied (8.4% of support for both long-time and beginning garden adults), ranks second in obesity rates (over 27% efforts. Further, the Extension program has also of the adult population), and has the highest rate staffed and trained volunteers to serve in the of infant mortality (NW Indicators, 2009). Family Nutrition Education Program and Master Food Preservers/Family Food Educators whoFrom Our Roots: The People Agriculture & Food of Morrow County, OR Page | 21

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