Local harvests create a regional economy

by SARAH LUCASSarah Lucas: Local harvests create a regional economy

Or it means asparagus. Or it could mean strawberries, peaches and blueberries; corn; milk and beef, pork, honey and eggs, rhubarb, tomatoes, herbs, hops … the list goes on.

Despite our label as the Cherry Capital, the region’s food harvest clearly is more than one famed fruit. And not only are all of these things grown or produced here, they’re often canned, bottled, dried, baked, brewed and — perhaps most importantly — turned into ice cream. They’re sold at farm markets and restaurants, roadside stands, supermarkets and wineries. Thousands of visitors travel here every year at least in part to buy these products, visit wineries and farm markets, and eat and drink at restaurants, wineries and breweries that specialize in our local harvests.

The work that farmers and others do to market their harvest directly to consumers through processing or direct retail sales is known by many names: food innovation, agri-business or agricultural entrepreneurism, for starters. Whatever the term used, these activities contribute millions of dollars annually to the economy.

And they mean big opportunities for farm profitability, job creation and business expansion. Because demand for local food is growing, farms and businesses throughout the region are increasing their bottom line by marketing and selling their products directly to consumers or local retail outlets. The region is home to hundreds of farms that are successfully serving local markets, processing produce into “value-added” products like jam or pies, or offering tourist attractions like corn mazes or tasting rooms.

Access the rest of the June 26, 2016 article on the Record-Eagle website, here.

Interested in supporting local food economies or suppliers? Regional resources are available online at www.networksnorthwest.org/planning,  www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org, or www.tastethelocaldifference.org.

Sarah Lucas is regional planning department manager for Networks Northwest.

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