Oregon State University has launched a new center aimed at strengthening local food systems.
OSU's Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems is under the umbrella of the Extension Service. It is tapping into the continuing growth in local and organic food. Director Garry Stephenson says their goal at the center is to help Oregon farmers take advantage of consumer demand.
Stephenson: "There's been pretty continuous growth for the past couple of decades in this sector. A lot of it is around a response from consumers that they're interested in more options for locally-produced healthy food. And so a lot of farmers are able to respond to that and create some profitable market niches for themselves."
Stephenson says they are hoping to expand into places where access to locally-produced food is difficult. They are doing applied research in organic farming practices and working on public policy issues. The Extension Service has been hit by budget cuts. Stephenson says the funding from public universities is unlikely to increase, so it is up to them to fundraise and find community support. They would like to fund endowments to put faculty in communities that want to strengthen local food systems.