Oregon agriculture is famous for its diversity. From grass seed that grows the turf of World Cup soccer fields to its U.S. leading Christmas tree, blackberry and hazelnut industries, Oregon produces a bountiful variety of agriculture products.
“It is a joy and a challenge to market our agriculture because it is so diverse,” says International Trade Manager Theresa Yoshioka, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).
Interest from Around the World
Each year, Oregon’s quality food and agricultural products attract domestic and international buyers who travel to Oregon and see the state’s agriculture first hand. In 2016, Oregon hosted buyers from China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, the European Union and Russia, among others. “What our team of ODA trade managers does is help make connections and build relationships between the buyers and potential suppliers to help facilitate trade and business opportunities,” Yoshioka says. ODA invites these buyers out to Oregon farms and food processing facilities to meet producers and processors.
When buyers from other countries come to Oregon, the international trade team at ODA arranges for them to go to the field to see the state’s agriculture. This gives food buyers the chance to see the farms and meet the producers, and is a great opportunity to show them agriculture before it is frozen, dried or packaged. It lets buyers experience the story behind the Oregon products.
Bob’s Red Mill
Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, a company founded by Bob and Charlee Moore, is one location that Yoshioka often takes international buyers. Strongly pursuing sales and brand growth outside the U.S., selling in markets all over the world anywhere from Australia to Vietnam, the agribusiness is putting exponential efforts into marketing its goods to overseas consumers.
Jan Chernus, vice president of international sales for the company, credits the company’s growing overseas success on its focus to keep consumers happy.
“No other company our size puts in these stellar efforts,” Chernus says. “That is why our export sales are growing at 25 percent per year, and that is what will keep us competitive in the world marketplace.”
Bob’s Red Mill Natural food products include an array of healthy, whole-grain, organic and gluten-free foods, such as flour, granolas, oats, cereals and baking mixes, as well as beans and seeds.
“Bob has given the company strong direction to pursue sales and brand growth outside the USA. After all, 98 percent of the world’s population does not live in our country,” Chernus says. “I think we can all agree with Bob when he says the entire world would be healthier eating our delicious whole-grain foods.”
Yoshioka adds, “The company has such a great culture. We love taking buyers there because it only takes one tour through the facility to get a better understanding of the company’s values and its product line.”
Important to the Economy
Oregon is a state with more acreage in agricultural production than many countries but with far less population. This means that it has more land to grow its diverse commodities, and the trade generated from these products has a huge economic impact on the state.
Oregon is helping to supply a premium-quality product to another country that they cannot grow themselves. And in turn, Oregon relies on other countries for products it cannot grow.
For example, Oregon supplies shade trees and grass seed for the green spaces China is beginning to develop in its largest cities.
Many international buyers visit Oregon to attend trade shows.
In industries where Oregon is strong, these trade shows attract people from across the country and even overseas. The Farwest Trade Show, featuring nursery and greenhouse products, is one such event. Buyers and influencers from Europe, Canada, China and Japan attended this show in 2015 and many are expected to return for 2016.
One of the newer events to start up in Oregon is Feast Portland. Now in its fifth year, this annual four-day event has become one of the premier food events in the country.
Building on the success of Feast Portland, which put Oregon on the national stage, ODA used a grant to create the International Culinary Ambassador’s Program. This program brings key influencers in the culinary community to Oregon during an event that showcases the state’s high-quality ingredients and bountiful food products.