A sign of the times for Oregon agriculture
New crop identification signs help Oregonians learn about agriculture
Motorists traveling the highways of Oregon can learn a little something
about agriculture in the near future when new and improved crop
identification signs are erected as part of an educational effort
spearheaded by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon . Between now
and next spring, there could be hundreds of new signs posted on
farms located along major thoroughfares around the state, sure to
answer the question, "I wonder what is growing in that field
signs are a great opportunity to show the traveling public what
a tremendous and unique diversity of crops we have in this state,"
says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
"ODA is a big supporter of efforts to teach the public more
about an important sector of Oregon's economy. If people know a
little more about what we produce, they are better able to appreciate
the efforts of our farmers and ranchers."
are motorists have already noticed the older white signs with green
lettering that identify the crop in the field. The sign program
actually began in the early 1980s when the organization Oregon Women
for Agriculture started putting up signs on their own farms in the
central Willamette Valley. Those teaching tools became so popular
that other producers wanted to erect signs on their own farms. When
the task of providing and coordinating an increasing number of crop
identification signs became too large, the Agri-Business Council
(ABC) took over. A newly designed crop sign is now available and
is re-energizing the effort. By the end of the summer, motorists
will see them.
we're trying to educate all Oregonians- not just urban
residents- about the vast diversity of product grown in our state,"
says ABC executive director Geoff Horning. "The dimensions
of the sign will be the same as in the past, but a visual component
is part of the redesign. There will be an actual picture of the
crop as well as the lettering, so that a sign posted in a field
of alfalfa, for example, will include artwork as well as the name
of the crop being grown. Motorists can easily see the lettering
on the sign at 65 miles per hour, but the picture will enhance the
on the sign will be an enhanced version of the "Landmark of
Quality" logo associated with ABC that has been part of the
old signs. The logo is a green outline of the state. There will
also be the phrase "Oregon Agriculture. Everywhere. Every Day.TM"
which has been the theme of a public image campaign developed by
the Keeping Agriculture Viable
(KAV) Committee. KAV is a standing committee of ABC.
Agri-Business Council is still developing a plan to strategically
place the signs, but it is expected that Interstate 5 and I-84 will
be major targets- as long as there is agriculture next to the right-of-way.
Individual farmers not living along the freeways are not excluded
from the program. Producers can purchase the signs from ABC for
$43.50 each (plus shipping and handling costs) and place them where
they wish. The farmers are responsible for maintaining the signs
throughout the year.
more than 225 different commodities found in the state, it is unrealistic
to think that crop identification signs will be posted for everything
that grows in Oregon. But there are as many as three dozen different
crops produced along a 45-mile stretch of I-5 between Portland and
Salem alone. Travelers can expect many of them to be identified
by signs within the next year.
of those crops might be obvious even to the non-agriculturalist.
Christmas tree farms will be clearly identified by the signs. But
less identifiable nursery crops like iris and holly are expected
to have signs as well. Oregon is a major producer of hazelnuts,
but even some native Oregonians might not be able to pick out a
hazelnut orchard. The crop identification signs will help them out.
Grass seed species will benefit from signs that will help distinguish
bentgrass from bluegrass, fescue from ryegrass. Few people have
trouble recognizing the Willamette Valley's variety of berries when
the fruit has been harvested and is up close. But the signs can
identify those berries when they are still in the field.
for other parts of the state are expected to include signs that
introduce the public to apple, cherry, and pear orchards in the
Rogue Valley and the Columbia Gorge. The grains of eastern Oregon
will be pointed out to passers by whether it is wheat, barley, oats,
or canola. Garden vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, carrots,
and tomatoes can also be identified by the signs. Those who raise
livestock- even some of the more exotic species- can also participate
in the program by placing signs in pastures where the animals feed.
crops have already been harvested this year, but it's not too early
to get prepared for next year.
a late start this year, our goal is to have 100 new signs placed
statewide by the end of 2007," says Horning. "The months
ahead will still be prime time for some crops, like Christmas trees
and several nursery crops, But we would like to get the signs out
and about now so that farmers are ready to go next spring when their
crop is in season."
crop identification signs are just one of several strategic efforts
undertaken by the Agri-Business Council. ABC has a presence at the
State Fair, Ag Fest, and various paid media campaigns. All are addressing
a critical need to educate an increasingly urbanized Oregon about
the importance of agriculture. A recent survey given to ag industry
leaders asked about public perception. Nearly all respondents believe
Oregonians do care about agriculture, they just don't understand
it very well.
call to action for farmers is to do what they can to educate the
public, and placing these signs in the field can help," says
Horning. "The call to action for Oregon consumers is to learn
more about agriculture and what it means to their daily lives. We
think the signs can be a part of that education."
more information, contact Geoff Horning at (503) 241-1487.