Blueberries, strawberries, peaches, oh my! While dozens of grocery stores offer these summer crops all year long, imported foods don’t compare in flavor or nutrition to the fresh, juicy crops that are grown right here in the Willamette Valley. Taste and freshness aren’t the only perks of eating local. Supporting our neighborhood farms through purchasing power is a vote in favor of Oregon’s rich agricultural heritage – a heritage that requires thoughtful investment during an era marked by constant change.
Oregon agriculture, particularly in the Willamette Valley, differs from other agricultural regions across the nation.
While most American farming operations grow enormous fields of a single crop (a practice called monocropping or monocultureMonoculture A single crop or plant species in an area.), our region grows a colorful variety of crops on much smaller parcels of land. In fact, the Willamette Valley is among the most diverse agricultural regions on Earth! This region produces more than 170  different crops, ranging from grains and grasses to vegetables and fruits to nuts and nursery products to meats and dairy.
Small farms that produce a variety of crops have unique challenges. Farming is labor-intensive work that requires hefty upfront investment into resources, such as machinery, which can make entry into the industry a challenge. While crop diversity has its benefits, it can also present challenges. In the age of changing climates, farmers need to adapt quickly to better understand how new weather patterns affect their operations. In an agricultural community composed of diverse farms – each occupying a unique landscape and producing unique products – what works well for one farmer may not work well for another. Natural uncertainties and large operational costs mean farmers don’t have a lot of financial wiggle room.
Farms that grow diverse crops look and act more like wild landscapes.
Although growing diverse crops can be more challenging than monocropping, it is a valuable practice. In nature, wild landscapes are a mosaic of plant types that create hospitable conditions for wildlife. Diverse agricultural fields provide important habitat and food for the pollinators we rely on to grow pollination-dependent foods (think fruit trees, alfalfa, nuts, berries, and grapes). Additionally, diverse farms help ease habitat fragmentationHabitat Fragmentation The process of dividing up a naturally occurring landscape into smaller, disconnected pieces. so wildlife can more easily occupy their full range while avoiding the human-built environment. So not only do humans reap the benefits of a thriving farming community, but so do the flying, scampering, and crawling critters we tend to overlook.
Markets provide the critical link between farmers and consumers.
Supporting small farms by purchasing and eating locally grown foods – whether from a farmers market, community supported agriculture program (CSA), or other venue – has far-reaching benefits, some of which may surprise you! When you purchase a tomato from a conventional grocery store, most of that money goes to the corporation that owns the store, and very little ends up in the hands of the grower. In contrast, 100% of the money spent on a locally produced tomato goes to the farmer who grew it. Profit earned from the local tomato won’t only be used to cover expenses, but also to repair equipment and purchase supplies from other local merchants – thus keeping economic resources within the community.
Lucky for us, our region has a flourishing agricultural industry that is easily accessible to consumers. Washington County alone boasts a dozen farmers markets  and a dozen CSAs ! Our local farmers work diligently year-round to provide nourishing foods to county residents. We’ve compiled a list of Washington County farmers markets for you below. We encourage you to connect with farms in your area via social media or email to stay in the know.
Farmers markets in Washington County:
- Aloha Community Farmers Market
- Beaverton Farmers Market
- Cedar Mill Farmers Market
- Cornelius Farmers Market
- Forest Grove Farmers Market
- Hillsboro Farmers Markets
- Tigard Farmers Market
- Tigard Bull Mountain Farmers Market
 “About Us”, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Oregon Field Office, November 26, 2019. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Oregon/About_Us/index.php
 “CSA Directory: Washington County.” Portland Area CSA Coalition. Accessed March 25, 2020. http://www.portlandcsa.org/csa-directory/wpbdp_category/washington-county/.