Oregonians and citizens across the US are invited to say thanks to those who produce food and fiber for a living as part of the celebration surrounding National Agriculture Week, March 20-27. The annual observation also gives Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor an opportunity to provide daily themes and messages throughout the special week. “National Ag Week is really about connecting people who don’t think about where their food comes from every single day,” says Taylor. “It’s about taking a week to talk about who our farmers, ranchers and fishers are, and what they are doing. They don’t just feed us and our families, but they are economic drivers in a lot of our communities across the state.” With National Agriculture Week running from Monday through Sunday, Taylor has identified seven themes– one for each day– along with supporting messages. Monday: How to say thank you to Oregon agriculture – “You can thank a farmer with your pocketbook,” says Taylor. “Buy local foods, whether that’s through your community farmers’ market, looking for Oregon fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, or ordering local food off a restaurant menu. If you know any farmers or ranchers, just say thank you.” Tuesday: Food and agriculture brings everyone together – Director Taylor points out that all Oregonians want safe, abundant, and affordable food. Oregon agriculture is able to provide those products. In addition, farmers, ranchers, and fishers share the values of Oregonians in sustaining the natural resources by taking care of the land, air, and water. There is also the fact that Oregonians generally prefer their food comes from local growers. “There is nothing more personal than what we eat,” says Taylor. “Food brings families and communities together. More people are experiencing CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). We see that with the more than 150 farmers’ markets around the state. Parents can introduce their children to different types of locally-grown products, but there’s also an opportunity to actually meet some farmers.” Wednesday: Agriculture is important to Oregon’s economy – An Oregon State University study concludes that adding all ag-related activities– from transportation to warehousing to wholesale to retail trade– accounts for nearly $29 billion in economic activity. That is 15 percent of Oregon’s gross state product. Production value of Oregon agriculture alone is more than $5 billion. Value-added processing contributes another $2 billion to the state’s economy. “One of the largest food-processing counties is Multnomah, the state’s urban center,” says Taylor. “Every county is tied to Oregon agriculture. It’s important to take a step back and think about all the jobs that wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have such a strong and thriving ag economy.” Agriculture supports more than 326,000 jobs. About 1 out of every 8 Oregonians are employed in an occupation related to agriculture. With about 80 percent of what is produced leaving the state either domestically or through export, Oregon agriculture brings in billions of new dollars to the state’s economy every year. Thursday: Agriculture has a positive impact on Oregon’s environment – “Farmers and ranchers are the first line of defense and the original environmental stewards,” says Taylor. “They want to do what’s right– a healthy environment equals a healthy bounty. That’s their job, that’s how they make a living. But they also take care of the land, air, and water for future generations of farmers. If they aren’t employing good farming practices in a sustainable way, the land won’t be productive for that next generation.” Oregon farmers and ranchers help protect wildlife habitat. They plant streamside vegetation and help control invasive species. Producers have embraced technology and have adopted best management practices that include integrated pest management, efficient irrigation, and conservation practices to reduce runoff and erosion. Friday: Who grows your food and fiber? – “We have about 35,000 farms across the state, and 98 percent are family operations,” says Taylor. “Big or small, no matter what is being grown or how it’s being grown–it’s family members together in business.” There are 1,175 Oregon century farms– meaning they have remained in the same family for at least 100 years. There are 33 farms that have reached the 150-year status. Oregon farmers, ranchers, and fishers produce more than 225 crops and livestock, making Oregon one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation. “What’s impressive to me is that Oregon leads the nation in women primary operators,” says Taylor. “One in 5 in Oregon is a woman and that’s really exciting.” Saturday: A message for Oregon farmers, ranchers, and fishers – “First, I want to say thank you,” says Taylor. “It takes a kind of entrepreneurial spirit. It also takes someone who is willing to take on a lot of risk. You could be a perfect farmer and do literally everything right, but you are still dependent on the markets and the weather. Thank you for being willing to take on that risk. My other message to producers– tell your story. Talk about what agriculture means to you, why you do it, your love for farming, ranching, and fishing, and what you hope the future will bring. Communicate to people what you do and how you do it. Whether you are large, small, organic, conventional or genetically engineered, whether you grow for your local CSA or farmers’ market, or export to Japan, I think you have an important story to tell.” Sunday: Celebrate Oregon agriculture all year long – National Agriculture Week is held once a year, but Oregonians have reasons to celebrate all 365 days. “Share the Oregon agriculture experience,” says Taylor. “Family activities can focus on ag. Take a drive through wine country. Go to a U-pick farm this summer. Plant your own garden. Prepare a great tasting meal featuring Oregon products. There are so many options. It’s a great way to connect with your kids and friends.” Follow ODA during National Agriculture Week at <https://www.facebook.com/ORAgriculture> and at <https://twitter.com/ORagriculture>.