Ecotrust launches business education program for mid-scale ag

Release Date: 12-06-2017

Megan Foucht

Communications and Marketing Manager
503.467.0816

First cohort of farmers, ranchers, and fishermen to gather Winter 2018

Portland, Ore., Wednesday, December 6, 2017 – Starting this month, a group of 14 farmers, ranchers, and fishermen will participate in a newly-formed business accelerator pilot program developed by Ecotrust called the “Ag of the Middle Accelerator”. The program will provide business development support for food producers located in rural, often economically distressed areas in Oregon, Washington, Northern California, and Alaska.

Ag of the Middle producers are a broad category of small and mid-sized farms and ranches that are larger than those selling via local farmers’ markets or CSAs (community supported agriculture), but smaller than those supplying globalized commodity markets, and who want to sell locally. Many of these producers also have strong environmental and social ethics at the core of their business models. Supplying mainstream regional markets with products raised to benefit soil, water, people, and animals is a key goal of the Accelerator and Ecotrust’s work in building the modern day “Ag of the Middle” sector.

The idea for a program like the Accelerator stemmed from Ecotrust-conducted research that documented the state of Ag of the Middle producers in Oregon and found that many needed additional support to make a series of challenging leaps in order to scale their business.

“There is a growing demand for food that carries important values, such as regenerative production, ethical treatment of workers, and a commitment to selling locally, but at a scale and level of professionalism that mainstream wholesale buyers require,” says Ecotrust Vice President of Food & Farms, Amanda Oborne. “If we’re successful, this program will help prepare local farmers, ranchers and fishers to meet that demand, help get their businesses poised for growth with integrity, and support them through the growing pains as business owners. Ultimately, eaters of all types in the Pacific Northwest should enjoy delicious, abundant food grown right here in the region at mainstream food outlets, without having to jump through special hoops to get it.”

While there are other programs in the region that focus on new and beginning farmers, the Accelerator is unique in its focus on farms, ranches, and fisheries that have already been in operation for at least a few years. Curriculum is being developed in partnership with Poppy Davis of C2C Consulting, who provides training and technical assistance on a variety of agricultural business issues, such as business formation, land tenure, credit, cash flow, taxation, legal liability, and marketing. Curriculum content in the pilot year will include business structure and taxation, credit and finance, and market development.

“We have a really unique set of participants for this first year,” says Program Manager Katy Pelissier. “There are producers whose businesses are fairly young, and others who have been direct marketing for 20 years. This was by design; we anticipate that participants will learn just as much from each other as they will from the formal curriculum we provide.”

This project, funded in part by a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, is part of a growing body of work focused on supporting Ag of the Middle producers, including the Redd on Salmon Street — Ecotrust’s newly-launched food enterprise incubator in Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District.
Pilot year Ag of the Middle Accelerator participants will help shape the direction of the program in years to come. They include:

6 Ranch
Located in Enterprise, Ore., 6 Ranch is a 5th generation ranch, focused on utilizing corriente cattle to actively restore the land and river running through the property.

By George Farm
An 86-acre creamery founded in 2006, By George Farm operates in Jacksonville, Ore., where the demands of grazing dairy cattle are balanced with the health of nearby riparian areas.

Campfire Farms
Raising pork since 2015, Campfire Farms in Mulino, Ore., operates on 30 acres, direct marketing most of their product to area restaurants and grocers.

Cobblestone Ranch
In operation for nearly a decade, Cobblestone Ranch raises grass-finished beef and lamb in Molinos, Calif., grazing their stock on several U.S. Fish and Wildlife wildlife refuges.

CS Fishery
Operating out of Garibaldi, Ore., CS Fishery aims to connect consumers with fishermen through locally harvested seafood.

Flying Coyote Farm
Started in 2013, Flying Coyote Farm in Sandy, Ore., raises both vegetables and livestock for sale at farmers’ markets and a 45-member CSA.

Lazy B
Located in Washtucna, Wash., Lazy B raises pastured eggs, grass-fed and finished cattle, sheep, pigs, hay, and grains with a focus on regenerative practices.

Madison’s Salmon
Starting with a set-net permit for Bristol Bay in 2015, Madison’s Salmon, based in Anchorage, Alaska, direct markets salmon to their customers.

Marion Acres
Operating on 47 acres in Hillsboro, Ore., Marion Acres offers pasture-raised beef, eggs, pork, and poultry. They are currently building a processing facility and farm store.

Myrtle Creek Farm
Passed down from the first generation, Myrtle Creek Farm is a newly-certified organic farm in Tualatin, Ore., that raises dry beans, small grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Nehalem River Ranch
Focused on maintaining the ecological health of their property along with the health of their animals, Nehalem River Ranch has been raising pastured beef in Nehalem, Ore., since 2015.

Port Orford Sustainable Seafood
Located in Port Orford, Ore., Port Orford Sustainable Seafood direct markets their fresh-frozen catch to customers up and down the I-5 corridor.

Tre-Fin Foods
Tre-Fin Foods is a small commercial fishing operation out of Ilwaco, Wash., that provides day-boat tuna from their own boat as well as from a fishermen’s co-op.

Upper Dry Creek Ranch
In operation for more than 20 years, Upper Dry Creek Ranch utilizes regenerative, soil building practices to raise grass-fed and finished lamb on their property in Weston, Ore.

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Ecotrust is powered by the vision of a world where people and nature thrive together. Since 1991, we have partnered with local communities from California to Alaska to build new ways of living and doing business. From forestry to finance, food access to green building, we work to advance social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental well-being. Together, we are making this place we live a home that we love. Learn more at ecotrust.org. Follow us @ecotrust

C2C Consulting is an agricultural business development agency run by Poppy Davis, who teaches and advises on agricultural business and policy issues affecting family-scale farms and ranchers and community interests in healthy food and farming systems. She provides training and technical assistance on a variety of agricultural business issues including business formation, land tenure, credit, cash flow, taxation, legal liability, including regulatory compliance, and marketing. She is 60 percent time the Director of Entrepreneurship at the Initiative for Indigenous Food and Agriculture at the University of Arkansas School of Law and has ongoing affiliations with several agricultural training programs across the country. She worked eight years at the USDA, most recently as the National Program Leader for Small Farms and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Previously she was a California CPA with an emphasis in agricultural enterprises and non-profits. She holds a Juris Doctor with a Certificate in Food and Agriculture from Drake University Law School, a Masters in Journalism from Georgetown, and a BS in Agricultural Economics from the University of California at Davis.