History

ALogon advocate for Farmers’ Markets since 1987

Oregon is host to a rich diversity of farm abundance that flows from our unique geographic inheritance: the Pacific Ocean, rich valleys and foothills of mountain ranges large and small, the mighty Columbia River and its Gorge, and the many micro-climates created by these features.

The state is home to more than 200 agricultural crops and more than 38,000 farms, the majority of which are 50 acres or smaller. Oregon farms had more than $5 billion in agricultural sales in 2011 alone, demonstrating Oregon farms are a powerful economic catalyst with an impact that reaches far beyond the fields.

More than 160 farmers’ markets showcase Oregon’s bounty, creating a unique connection between food producers and consumers while building community gathering places where everyone is welcome. Oregon ranks 15th in the nation for number of farmers’ markets, 2nd in farm-direct sales per customer and 5th for total farm direct sales. Farm direct sales include farmers’ market sales, plus community supported agriculture, farm stands and other direct to consumer sales. Annually, it is estimated that farmers’ markets contribute $50 million to Oregon’s farm sales. These numbers tell the story of a vital industry with strong support from a loyal public whose numbers continue to grow.

We invite you to explore farmers’ markets across the state to experience the exceptional nature of Oregon’s flavors.

How we were Born

OFMA was inspired by the keynote address given by August Schumacher, Jr. at a Pacific Northwest Farm Direct Marketing conference held in Seattle, in February of 1987.  Mr. Schumacher was the Commissioner of the Department of Food and Agriculture, State of Massachusetts, at the time and later served as a USDA undersecretary.  He had started a program in his state’s markets that allowed WIC recipients to also receive coupons good at farmers’ markets.

Conference attendee Caroline Goodall met Marti Fate, and OFMA’s history began.  Caroline and Marti served on the Board of Directors for the PNWFDM conference and began meetings to start a statewide Oregon farmers’ market project in April of 1987.  In May of 1987, OFMA was incorporated.

Just after OFMA formed, the Oregonian’s FoodDay section listed only twelve markets: Albany, Corvallis (Wedneday), Grants Pass, Gresham, Hillsboro, La Grande, Lane County, Lincoln County, McMinnville, Medford, Rogue River, and Salem. The Beaverton market, now the largest single market in the state, opened the following year. Portland Farmers Market, which now operates eight markets, was organized in 1992.

Caroline and Marti continued helping with start-up markets all over the state and by April of 1988, OFMA had 35 members from 12 markets.  OFMA's membership has now grown to over 80 markets and associations, boasting nearly 100 locations across the state of Oregon.

In 1989, Oregon became one of seven states participating in a pilot project for the WIC coupon program that became nationwide in 1990.  OFMA’s requests for market guidelines became the first Direct Marketing Handbooks for farmers and food processors, written and published by ODA.

OFMA worked with ODA on a set of farmers' market guidelines in 2003. In 2009, ODA issued a new set of market guidelines which were met with concern from dozens of farmers and market managers.  These concerns reached the ears of legislators and galvanized the organization.  Friends of OFMA, including food safety policy expert Rebecca Landis, helped draft new legislation to acknowledge the importance of farm direct marketing of Oregon agriculture and to clarify which farmer activities require licensing and which could safely be conducted at a lower level of regulation. This Farm Direct Bill passed in 2011.

For 25 years, OFMA has worked for markets and the farmers who sell in them. OFMA represents small farmers and farmers markets in ways no one else does.