Jackson County farmers see sales slump

MEDFORD — Jackson County fell in line with 35 of Oregon's 36 counties last year when it recorded a decline in agricultural sales.

Local farmers and ranchers saw sales fall 7 percent in 2009, dropping to $63.8 million from $68.7 million in 2008, according to statistics released this month by Oregon State University. That was less than half of the average decline statewide, however.

Crop sales in the county tumbled 8.8 percent to $47.5 million from $52.2 million in 2008, while animal sales dipped 1 percent to $16.3 million from $16.5 million.

Those numbers came as no shock to local growers.

"Our alpaca sales were down and sales from our 75 fruit trees were down, too," said Jeanne Davidian of Caprice Vineyards & Rolling Mills Alpacas on Old Stage Road outside of Central Point. "We had a freeze, so the crops were down and the drive-by sales were less, too."

Davidian and her husband, Jim, have sold and raised alpacas for seven years and have sold fruit for the past five years. "The fruit was picking up quite well, but last year was the worst year ever for us," she said, adding the couple's boutique featuring alpaca items also saw declining sales.

Diminished yield hit Fox Run Farms, which sells a wide variety of produce as well as its own apples.

"It was the first year we haven't improved from the year before," said Duane Goodman, who has operated the West Main Street farm and roadside stand for 15 years. "Overall, there were several factors that made last year a little less than years before, including the economy and construction on the road out here."

With fewer apples, Fox Run Farms pressed less of its signature cider.

Sales in the state's southwestern region, combining Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties, dropped 8 percent to $150.024 million from $163.061 million.

Not everyone saw a down year.

At Alta Vista Orchard, where Morris Arthur grows u-pick blueberries on West Stewart Avenue in Medford, business held steady.

"It stayed about the same," said Arthur, who has grown a single crop on just under an acre for 10 years. "It's been pretty static. We've been selling for $2 a pound for the last two years."

He said competition has declined in recent years with a couple local patches dropping out.

Statewide, there was an overall drop of nearly 15 percent in agricultural sales, with only Hood River County showing a gain. Marion County remained the agricultural sales leader with combined sales of $427.620 million, but declined nearly 13 percent from its $489.697 million total in 2008.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

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