Sara Miller and Josh Russell of the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District presented the county board of commissioners with a detailed report regarding food system development in Wallowa County during the August 6 meeting.

The report took 11 months to compile and chronicled all aspects of foods in Wallowa County including products, processing, retail, access, school foods, shopping habits, and farmers markets.

“Overall,” said Russell, “the report is overwhelmingly positive.” The negatives noted in the report, he said, were focused around regulatory boundaries not likely to change.

Russell stated that the United States Department of Agriculture, based on a formula pairing population with food access outlets, defines the Lower Valley around Lostine and Wallowa as a “Food Desert.” He says the Lower Valley Farmers Market, though only open one Friday evening per week in Lostine and Saturdays in Wallowa, is providing an additional food source for that end of Wallowa County.

Miller spoke highly of community gardens beginning to grow in numbers throughout the county. She said for a period of three months that a community garden was the source of produce at the Joseph schools’ salad bar.

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