The High Desert Food & Farm Alliance was a result of the 2010 Central Oregon Community Food Assessment which helped us to understand our baseline of where there were gaps in the food system. Over the years, we have grown and adapted to a changing food and farm community, while staying true to our mission of supporting a healthy and thriving food and farm network through education, collaboration, and inclusion.
Our Food System
We believe that everyone deserves good food. We define good food as affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food that is easily accessible and sustainably produced in Central Oregon. In reality, people have been denied access to this food based on wealth, geographical disadvantages, non-culturally appropriate food options, and exploitative marketing. At the same time, our agricultural system is built and maintained on a foundation of oppression and systemic racism of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and immigrants. Furthermore, federal policies have limited access to land and capital for farmers and ranchers while creating inequitable food access for people.
We work within this food system framework. We recognize that there are many barriers to accessing, farming, raising and crafting food, and we strategically reduce these barriers so that regional food products can be enjoyed by everyone. We focus on improving access to good food for individuals that have been marginalized, and supporting the small to mid-sized, beginning (less than 10 years) farmers and ranchers who grow and raise our food.
HDFFA aspires to be an organization that is equitable, diverse and inclusive in our services and programs, and as an imperative in our everyday activities and operations. We honor the variety of cultural perspectives that are present in Central Oregon, seek to overcome food access and health disparities, and embrace diversity. We are committed to building a sustainable and just food system in Central Oregon recognizing that advancing these values is ever evolving.
We commit to engaging in an ongoing learning process around privilege, power, inequality and systems of oppression, and using our organizational power to be an agent of change, primarily in Central Oregon. We acknowledge that change needs to happen now, and recognize that it will take patience and dedication.
Diversity: full range of differences and similarities visible and non-visible that make each individual unique, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, abilities and disabilities, religion, age, and perspectives arising from different backgrounds.
Equity: understanding that there are varied needs of different groups based on identity. Equity values equal outputs and recognizes that everyone starts from a different place.
Inclusion: environment that engages multiple perspective, where diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes within an organization, group (or network). It’s ensuring a seat at the table.
OVER THE YEARS
Click below to read about how the organization has slowly and steadily grown to better serve our community.
In 2010, a Central Oregon Needs Assessment was conducted by an Americorps member with oversight from Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, NeighborImpact, OSU Extension and WyEast RC&D. This assessment addressed hunger and food insecurity, retail sales and distribution of local food, and food production. A subsequent Food Summit was held with 130 people and keynote speaker and author Mark Winne who recommended forming a Food Policy Council.
The enthusiasm that grew from the Food Summit combined with a strong local food movement resulted in the creation of the Central Oregon Food Policy Council (now HDFFA). Food Policy Councils are formal organizations that bring together stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop policy recommendations on how to improve it.
With the good graces of many wise and strong willed citizens, a strategic plan was developed and a 13-member board was appointed to form the new non-profit organization in 2012. The Board of Directors represented farmers and ranchers, food businesses, hunger relief, public health, land-use, local government, university, and the community-at-large.
The Central Oregon Food Policy Council began publication of the annual Food & Farm Directory; undertook analysis of land-use policies with regards to farming practices in the tri-county region; hosted numerous conferences and workshops to educate farmers and retailers supporting local food, and participated in Project Connect, where we provided fresh food from local farmers to those at-risk or currently homeless residents. As our place in the community grew so did our focus, which slowly moved away from policy and towards programmatic work.
In 2014, we changed our name to the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance to better reflect our work and constituents. Our focus transitioned from land-use and policies to the broader food system, which includes increased access to and education about healthy food.
Our first employee was hired in 2015, which meant that we were finally able to increase our capacity to provide services to the region. We started collaborating with farmers and ranchers to determine gaps and provided educational workshops (Chef-Farmer Mixers) and initiated the Local Food Challenge to improve purchasing of local food by residents. Taste Local Thursdays events to showcase how restaurants utilize local food, and published the High Desert Food & Farm Directory. We also initiated Cooking Matters and Seed to Supper based on the desires stated by residents to improve food access.
In 2016, we worked with Crook County Crooked River Open Pastures (CROP) and Jefferson County Educational Agricultural Tours (EATs) to bring more tourists to the rural parts of Central Oregon and showcase our amazing producers.
We began to reach out to value added producers and food businesses as they too are contributing to the local food system, and started working with the Local Food Cluster group. We refined and expanded our food access programs, Cooking Matters and Seed to Supper, in other cities in the region, including the community of Warm Springs, and developed a new program, Grow & Give.
In 2017, we hired our first Executive Director, Katrina Van Dis, who was a founder, board member and the visionary for the organization. We also developed a new 3-year strategic plan and updated our mission to further define our focus of providing education and improving collaboration. This year we received our first USDA Community Food Projects grant , which allowed us to focus on the long-term growth and sustainability of our food access programs.
We continued to provide Cooking Matters and initiated Grow & Give and Veggie Rx but dropped Seed to Supper because it was underutilized and difficult to implement as a volunteer-driven program. We further developed the agricultural support programs to include season extender grants, marketing materials, supplies to improve farming practices, and annual Chef-Farmer Mixers events to continue building trust, relationships and ultimately new markets among chefs and farmers. Our Food & Farm Directory expanded from a tri-fold brochure in 2014 into a 48-page, full color community resource.
From 2019-2021 we continued to refine our programs and have hit significant milestones along the way. In 2021, we totaled over 100,000 pounds of fresh produce through Grow & Give and have invested over $150,000 in local farms and ranches through direct purchasing and grant distribution. We partnered with the Oregon and local Veterans Affairs to reach homebound U.S. Veterans through our VeggieRx programming. Our staff has grown to a team of eight staff, all dedicated to strengthening our local food and farm network. We developed our Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Committees, which allow us to hear directly from community members in order to improve our programs and their impact. We began to work once again in policy and advocacy, and successfully advocated, along with a small statewide team, for 1.5 million dollars in emergency relief funds for small-scale Oregon producers. Internally, we began the process of working on our diversity, equity and inclusion with a local consultant to identify organizational flaws and weaknesses and to ultimately better serve our Central Oregon community.
We’re looking forward what the future will bring!