Food Access and Agriculture

Like medical and health access, food access varies across the Region. This section addresses types and value of crops, seafood, land cover, meat, dairy and other animal products, and access to food indicators.

Top Crops by the Dollar

According to the Oregon Agriculture Information Network, grasses comprise the top three spots overall in sales value (annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue). According to the 2012 Agriculture Census from the USDA, Linn County is first in Oregon and in the United States for acres of field and grass seed crops (133,687 acres). It’s important to note that due to proprietary information, the value of some crops in some areas is not disclosed.

Top Commodities by Total Sales Value

Top Crops by Acreage

Data on top crops by acreage confirms that most fields are planted with grasses. In terms of harvested acreage, grasses (annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue) dominated from 2004 to 2009 with the top three spots, and since then other hay and wheat have increased to greater acreage than perennial ryegrass and tall fescue.

Top Commodities by Total Harvested Acreage

Fish and Shellfish Landings

In 2014, Lincoln County locations (Depoe Bay, Newport, and Waldport) landed 33 percent of all Dungeness Crab at all ports in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Top 5 Commercial Species of Fish and Shellfish by Estimated Value of Landings

Historical Harvests

According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, timber was a top agricultural commodity and a top employer in many communities in our Region for many decades.

Timber Harvest by Type of Entity

Future Growth

In 2012, Benton County produced two percent of Oregon’s hazelnut crop and Linn County produced 11 percent, which ranked them 8th and 5th, respectively, out of the ten counties that produce hazelnuts in the State. While harvest data for subsequent years is incomplete at the State level, the chart below shows harvested acreage and crop value both are trending up in our Region. The price per pound almost doubled from $0.87 in Benton County and $0.89 in Linn County in 2012 to an average of $1.65 in both Counties in 2013. Oregon State University has patented several hazelnut varieties. One contributor to the increase in hazelnut production is that hazelnuts can be a substitute for almonds in some cases, since their cultivation requires less water.

For information about wine grapes harvests, see Tourism.

Hazelnuts in the Region

Price and Production Trends

There are 147 pounds of Dungeness Crab harvested for every one person in Lincoln County, according to 2012 data. Lincoln County ranks 4th in the State for aquaculture production overall. By way of Newport, our Region has a vast economic reach. Some pink shrimp processed in Newport ultimately is sold in Denmark, while Pacific hake harvested off Oregon makes its way to the Ukraine and elsewhere, processed by major companies such as Pacific Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, and Bornstein Seafoods, all of which operate seafood processing plants in Newport.

There are 13 harvested Christmas trees for every one person in Benton County, according to 2012 data. Linn County ranks 6th in the State for cut Christmas trees (with 3.1 harvested Christmas trees for every one person in the County) and similar crops, according to 2012 USDA data. Benton County is first in the State and 2nd in the United States.

There are two people for every sheep in Linn County, according to 2012 data. According to the USDA, for 2012, Linn County is first in the State and 11th in the United States in the category of “sheep, goats, wool, mohair, and milk.”

A note about exports: According to the Oregon State University Extension Service and Oregon Department of Agriculture, up to 90-95 percent of agricultural products in Oregon are exported, though the percentage may even be higher in our Region, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Land Cover

As depicted in these maps, the distribution of agricultural products and other land cover varies across the Region. It is important to note that the data are obtained via satellite imagery from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS), causing under-representation of aquaculture since USDA NASS does not incorporate the ocean in its data.

Map of Land Cover in the Region
Map of Land Cover in the Region (Zoomed In)

Agriculture/Crop Charts for the Region

Data are current to 2012 or 2013, depending on availability.

Food Access

Most crops in the Region are not edible, but are important to the economy. And a majority of the edible crops are exported. This map shows the distribution of households in our Region that are more than one mile (urban) or more than ten miles (rural) from a supermarket or large grocery store, and do not have access to a vehicle. The distribution is shown by Census tract, with the darkest areas representing the largest numbers of households. The map also shows the locations of farmers markets, farm stands, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. For more information about vehicle access and transportation in the region, see Connectivity.

Food Security Information

According to 2013 data from Feeding America, 16.2 percent of Benton County residents and 29 percent of children live in households meeting the USDA definition of having low food security, meaning a reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet as compared to dietary recommendations. Food prices and other factors also affect food security. In Lincoln County, 15.3 percent of residents overall and 26.6 percent of children face food insecurity. The rate is 16.1 percent in Linn County – higher than the state average of 15.8 percent – and the rate for children is 22.2 percent.

What Do We Mean by ‘Urban’ and ‘Rural’? Rural areas are defined by the Census Bureau as sparsely populated with fewer than 2,500 people. Urban areas are those more than 2,500 people. A census tract is urban if the geographic center of the tract is in an area with more than 2,500 people; all other tracts are rural.

What Do We Mean by ‘Grocery Store’? The USDA Food Access Research Atlas defines a supermarket or large grocery store as one that reports at least $2 million in annual sales and contains all the major food departments found in a traditional supermarket, including fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, dairy, dry and packaged foods, and frozen foods.

Map of Food Access and Local Food in the Region

Public Gardens

This map shows the locations of public gardens in the Region, including school gardens, along with the number of children living more than one mile (urban) or more than ten miles (rural) from a supermarket or large grocery store.

Map of Food Access and Gardens for Children in the Region

Eating Local

According to the USDA’s 2012-2013 Farm to School Census, the Corvallis School District spends 23 percent of its food budget on local food. Lebanon Community School District and Lincoln County School District each spend 10 percent, and the Lebanon Community School District spends 8 percent. Data for other districts isn’t available.

Farm to School Vendors

Below is a list, as provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, of Farm to School Vendors in our Region for 2011-2015.

Vendor Phone Closest City Type
Anderson Blues 541-745-5487 Corvallis Producer
Gathering Together Farm 541-929-4270 Philomath Producer
Green Gable Gardens 541-929-4444 Philomath Producer

Farmer’s Markets and Vendors

At the Newport market, vendors hail from four counties, offering everything from eggs and pickles, to nuts and wine. A customer count at the Newport Farmers Market in summer 2014 averaged about 2,500 per week, and the average amount each customer spends is $25. At $62,500 per week, with a 26-week season, that’s $1,625,000 in local economic impact.

Food Deserts

This map shows the locations of public meal sites, food pantries, and food banks in relation to the distribution of low-income residents with limited access to supermarkets or large grocery stores. The two darkest colors on the map show the locations of food deserts in the Region. The USDA defines a “food desert” as an area that meets both low-access and low-income thresholds. Low-access communities are Census tracts where at least 500 people, or at least 33 percent of a U.S. Census Bureau tract’s population, are located more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. In rural areas, that distance extends to ten miles. Low-income communities, according to USDA’s definition, are Census tracts that have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area median. According to 2010 data from the USDA, 14 percent the population of Benton County lives in a food desert, 15 percent in Lincoln County, and 13 percent in Linn County.

Note: These data do not consider “the sharing economy,” meaning informal arrangements for sharing food.

Map of Food Access and Food Assistance in the Region

Meals on Wheels

The Meals on Wheels program, administered and staffed by OCWCOG, provides meals to seniors and adults with disabilities. For home delivered meals volunteers deliver meals to homebound seniors and disabled adults who receive Medicaid and are unable to get to a meal site in their community. As indicated in the chart, the average number of meals served per month has fluctuated over the years, dropping significantly in 2011, post-recession, when an average of slightly more than 600 meals per work day were served. A steady rise in demand throughout 2014 lead to the highest average meals per day served in January 2015 when close to 1,000 meals per work day were provided. For the first six months of 2015 an average of 850 meals per day were served to clients across the Region.

Because the Meals on Wheels program serves a subset of Medicaid enrollees, some of the fluctuation in meals served may be attributable to the trend in Medicaid enrollment. According to Medicaid enrollment data from the Oregon Health Plan, enrollment was rising slowly through the recession, from 2007 to 2011. Then from 2011 through 2013 enrollment was steady. Most recently in 2014, with the implementation of Oregon’s Medicaid expansion program, enrollment jumped dramatically.

Another key factor to consider when reviewing the data is funding. The program does receive State and Federal funding, as well as grant funding, but relies heavily on donations and fundraising efforts. When financial times are difficult, the program often struggles to meet the needs of its clients.

Average Meals Served per Work Day by Month
Meals on Wheels logo