Agricultural Connections started in January of 2010 when founder Andrew Adams recognized that there was an un-met need in the community of Bend: people wanted fresh, local, organic food and once the farmers market, CSA and gardening seasons ended, there was nowhere to find it. Andrew set out to find sources and create relationships with farmers in our greater region to satisfy this need. The program started off with produce boxes, a few a la carte items and one weekly pickup location in west Bend. In fall of the same year, Andrew shifted his roots to eastern Canada to be with his then fiance. Elizabeth Weigand was hired to keep the business running while Andrew started a new life chapter elsewhere. About a half year later Elizabeth became the new owner of Ag Connections and continues to run it today. Over the last four years since her management/ownership the business has undergone quite a few changes including a more extensive list of farm partners, a custom website, three more pickup locations including two in other Central Oregon communities, a warehouse/office location, a contracted valley courier, a part-time employee, and a growing restaurant client list. Elizabeth continues to be active in the local food community, working with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) on various food projects, speaking in classes at COCC, and serving on the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance Board. When she's not surrounded by veggies at the office, Elizabeth (Liz) is concocting yummy food at home, hiking, backpacking, dancing, skiing, crafting, traveling, paddleboarding, and hanging out with her friends and family.
Agricultural Connections (AC) delivers farm-fresh food year-round. We sell local (i.e. Central Oregon) and regional (i.e. throughout Oregon, mainly from the Eugene-Junction City Willamette Valley area) food to both retail customers through our online marketplace and to wholesale customers. We strive to supply our Central Oregon community with fresh, local, organic and top-quality produce, dairy, eggs, mushrooms, meats, and other products year-round. Our hope is to utilize Oregon’s abundance of agricultural production to feed our community and support local farmers and their families. We believe that to live a healthier lifestyle it is valuable to know about our food: where it comes from, how it is produced, and how the farm and its animals are cared for during its production.
Produce Shares and CSAs
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a way for local residents to pre-purchase “shares” of seasonally fresh, high quality produce and other goods from small regional farms. Traditional CSAs are operated directly from farms. While Agricultural Connections is not a traditional CSA, we do offer similar products: produce shares or boxes. AC's produce boxes are made up of a seasonal, weekly selection of fresh produce. The produce for AC's boxes comes from our various farm partners year-round. Our first priority is to source from our Central Oregon partners; we happily increase our selection by supplementing with produce from our valley partners.
AC’s Flexibility Model
No Long Term Commitments – Week to week ordering
Produce Box Size Options – Family and Individual Shares
Product Variety - Dairy, fruit, eggs, meat and more available at one convenient spot
Convenient Weekly Pickup Locations - West Bend, East Bend, Redmond and Madras. Delivery available upon request.
What Does Local Mean to AC?
Most farmers, processors and distributors partnered with Agricultural Connections are located within a 125 mile radius of Central Oregon, as the crow flies. Exceptions include seasonal wild mushrooms (which are often within that radius, but may come from areas such as the Coastal Mountain Range), and items that cannot be grown in Oregon which customers have requested via survey responses.
Why Eat Local?
There are many reasons why AC supports eating locally, but here are some of the most important factors:
Eating locally is better for the environment! The average food item in a supermarket is transported from 1500 miles away! The carbon footprint of these items is high. Fossil fuels used to move these foods contributes to natural resource depletion, air pollution, and road wear and tear. Studies have found that a regional diet consumes 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country, let alone across the world. When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. Seasonal eating is not only better for the environment, but it tastes better too! Suddenly Kimberly Orchards peaches are the taste of summer! Even in winter, comfort foods like squash, potatoes, and beets just make sense – a lot more sense than flavorless asparagus from thousands of miles away.
A specific example of the environmental benefits of AC: If AC delivers 100 produce shares to its weekly customers, the food miles attached to one share equal less than 5 miles!
Eating locally tastes better! Because the average supermarket 'fresh' foods come from far away, they are, indeed, less 'fresh'. In fact, we would say that some of the items are hardly 'fresh' at all! These items must be harvested and/or produced, packaged, loaded, transported, unloaded and displayed before they even get to the consumer's eyes. There may also be an intermediate warehouse holding place before they get delivered to the store. In general, most 'fresh' foods at the store are at least one week old, but two-three weeks is typical. Additionally, as the food system has industrialized, the selection of fruits and vegetables has become extremely narrow. Products in the industrial system have been chosen for their durability and longevity to travel in order to maintain their 'sellability' at the store. So, what has been compromised?? FLAVOR and JUICINESS! Yes, these are reasons worth pointing to for kids' lack of interest in eating fresh fruits and vegetables! Also, again to extend product lifetime, produce is often harvested before it is fully ripe, resulting in less fully-developed flavor. In general, locally-grown food has better flavor, is juicier, will last longer in your fridge, and overall is just more delicious!
A specific example of the flavor benefits of AC: Produce from Cinco Estrellas is harvested in 24-36 hours before being handed to our customers (literally!)! Noris Dairy milk, half & half and cream are bottled fresh barely three days before pickup!
Eating locally stimulates local-regional economic development! Local eating directly supports small, local farms. In order to transition from an industrialized (i.e. less healthy and less environmentally-friendly) food system, support of local farms is critical. Just like any business, farmers need customers to purchase their goods in order to stay in business. Unless local farmers can find a direct market for their goods, they may struggle to stay economically viable. Further, the Make Local Habit movement is valid in that purchases from local businesses retain three times as much money in the local economy versus purchases made at non-local businesses.
A specific example of local-regional economic benefits of AC: One of AC's main goals is to contribute to the economic health of the local food movment by supporting existing local-organic farmers and stimulating the development of more local-organic farming. We do this by partnering, currently, with a dozen local farms and businesses.
Eating locally builds relationships between farmers and consumers! This summer, AC hopes to invite its members to our farms in an effort to come together as a community. Meet your farmers, their families, their agricultural techniques, and their lands to enjoy a day of good food, good fun, and great friends. These direct relatinships also allow consumers to easily find out more about where food comes from and how it is grown. Just try getting the 411 on a supermarket carrot! We visit most of the farms we work with on a weekly basis and we have personal relationships with every producer, so if you have questions, we have answers or can get answers in a day or two. In a world of food recalls and security concerns, we like knowing our supply chain is very, very short.
A specific example of relationship benefits of AC: Thanks to Central Oregon Locavore and The Common Table, AC members and the Central Oregon community can learn about local farmers at the monthly Meet Your Farmer events. Each month a local farmer's products are integrated into a gourmet menu and a presentation is given about the farm. This is a great way to meet some of AC's farm partners! Another option to connect with local farms is through Willing Workers on Local Farms (WWOLF).
Eating locally is fun! Discover the tastes and possibilities of foods through fresh, seasonal cooking food adventures! From parsnips and beets, to kale and leeks, trying new foods opens us to endless dietary possibilities that exist within our local foodshed.
Know Your Food
Organic dairy is not all the same. Free range chickens and cattle are not all the same. How can you compare a milking cow that is fed organic corn all day to a cow that wanders freely in organically grown grass pastures? Are chickens that are kept inside all day and only given access to the outdoors, often on a concrete pad, the same as those that range free on open pasture? The answer is NO, but the labels within stores don’t tell you otherwise. Lesson learned: organic dairy, free range eggs, free range chickens, and free range cattle are not all the same.
For an in-depth discussion on why grassfed, free range animals are healthier and therefore the products we receive from them are healthier (e.g. milk, cheese, eggs, ground beef), read Why Grassfed is Best by Jo Robinson or Why Butter is Better by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig.