One of the smallest counties in Oregon, Benton County lies between Linn and Lincoln counties and shares the rich fertile soil of the verdant Willamette Valley. Benton County has a strong agricultural and food processing history which began in 1845 and highlights the vast potential that the land holds to feed residents. Through the years, this county has enjoyed a diversity of premium crops from grains, cattle, and lumber to fruits, vegetables, flax, and hops. Although Benton County remains a very productive agricultural contributor to the local food supply, the face of farming has changed dramatically over the last ten years and the need for local food has increased.Both the number of farms and the average size of a farm have decreased significantly, reducing the total amount of land in farms by 12%, or a loss of over 15,000 acres of farmland. Simultaneously, the need for more production of local foods continues to increase with more Benton County residents living with food insecurity. One in five residents in the county live below the poverty line, and more than 50% of school- age children rely on subsidized lunch programs. Although fewer farms and acres are in production, the volume is adequate to serve the local residents, but there is not an economically viable system for distribution. While farmers continue to produce a wide variety of healthy produce, poultry, and dairy, the challenge of accessibility and affordability for some residents continues to plague the social and economic environment.
Along with our partners, Ten Rivers Food Web is working to develop solutions to resolve these issues and improve the volume and diversity of local foods supplied to local markets in an affordable, equitable manner.
Produced in 2006, From Our Own Soil is a community food assessment of Benton County completed by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon with significant support from Oregon State University, Oregon Food Bank, Ten Rivers Food Web, and many local faith communities and farms.
A Community Food Assessment for Benton County was completed in 2014 and is available to download! This important publication has been guiding and inspiring our work in this region over the past few years.