During a recent visit to Oregon, USDA’s Director for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Max Finberg, visited the Food Innovation Center in Portland, where researchers are helping producers get local edibles on the shelf.
The Food Innovation Center (FIC), an experiment station administered jointly by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, works extensively with USDA to help agricultural producers and food businesses get local foods to market. To make this possible, the FIC conducts a variety of studies related to product development, packaging, shelf life, consumer acceptance, economic feasibility and product marketing.
With assistance from USDA and other local foods partners, a number of Oregon’s small food businesses are able to access the expertise of this world-class research team. For example, Morale Orchards is a Hood River, Oregon, pear operation. Last week, they were awarded a Value Added Producer Grant from USDA Rural Development to evaluate options and strategies for converting a portion of their fresh pear crop to freeze-dried snacks. Grant funds will offset costs for an economic feasibility study and a technical feasibility study covering processing methods, shelf life, and consumer sensory tests at the Food Innovation Center. The grant will also aid in the development of business and marketing plans. Moving forward, a dried pear product line would allow Morale Orchards to address an increasing demand for healthy, locally produced snack options while generating processing jobs.
In another effort, USDA Rural Development provided grant funding to the Food Innovation Center to research the feasibility and quality of Oregon hazelnut oil for retail sale.
USDA Rural Development has partnered extensively with rural agricultural producers and food businesses to advance local food systems in Oregon. Using its full array of program authorities, as well as USDA’s Know Your Farmer Know Your Food initiative, Rural Development has consistently supported local food efforts in Oregon and has emerged as a national leader in this arena. Partnerships like this have helped make Oregon the place to be for locally grown, processed and marketed food!