LA GRANDE, OREGON__Do you own a few dairy cows or goats? Have you wondered if you could make and sell cheese and other dairy products made with milk from you herd? No matter how large or small the herd, Federal and Oregon State regulations make this a complicated and daunting goal. The Eastern Oregon Visitors Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture want to help clear many misunderstandings and misconceptions and have joined to present a workshop that digs deeply into what is and isn’t allowed. Eventually, we may seek out solutions to help increase opportunities for farmers and ranchers within the region.

The workshop will be held November 8, 2 p.m., at OSU Extension office, located at 10507 N. McAlister Road, Island City. Presented by Melissa Ney, Food Safety Specialist, Oregon Department of Agriculture, this workshop will provide a casual and open setting for producers to learn the regulations and to freely ask questions about their own situations, without fear of repercussions. At the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association, we have been working with a committee of growers and community leaders on agritourism development for several years. Recently, it has become clear there is a lot of interest from small dairies in making their own cheese and dairy products or processing their own meat products. The complex regulations around doing so mostly have the purpose to project consumers. But they also protect producers from possible liability situations.

An outcome of the agritourism development activities in several counties has been the creation of five self-guided farm and ranch trails, as well as the Union County Farm Crawl last June. The purpose is connecting producers with people who want to know more about agriculture and who want to buy food directly from the source. The Cove-Union Farm Loop in Union County is one of the five self-guided tours. Others are, Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop and River to Hills Farm Trail in Morrow and Umatilla Counties, Four Rivers Farm & Garden Trail in the Ontario area, and the Wallowa County Barn Tour. The projects share brochure design and sign styles, to help people find participating locations. Two other farm trails are under development. The EOVA continues to work to enhance visitor and resident opportunities for experiences that blend agriculture and tourism – two chief drivers of the region’s economy. Adding value and promoting local products is a natural next step. While one intent is to help people connect with fresh agricultural products, the work is designed to draw visitors and provide an activity that encourages them to spend several hours exploring the area, learning about a key industry. Ultimately, the goal is to put and keep more money in the local and regional economy.