Farming and Agriculture – Values and Beliefs

Oregonians share their values and beliefs on farming and agriculture practices in Oregon.

From May 26 – June 5, 2023, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ attitudes and behavior related to farming and agriculture including differences in feelings about small-scale farms and large-scale commercial or industrial farms. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below. A Spanish version of the questionnaire was developed for the study in partnership with Rural Development Initiatives; the values and beliefs of Spanish-speaking Oregonians are included in the findings. 

This highlights memo summarizes key findings for questions related to the values and beliefs Oregonians have about farming and agriculture. Other memos have been prepared for the semantics and imagery Oregonians associate with farming and agriculture, U.S. agricultural subsidies, and the personal connection Oregonians have with farming/agriculture.    

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire and tabs. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs. 

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroup variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions. 

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability. 

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying three documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet. 

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVBC): This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute. 

Small-Scale vs. Large-Scale Farms

  • Oregonians associate some qualities more strongly with small-scale farms, some with large-scale farms, and some qualities with both (Q26-44). A majority associate small farms with the production of organic products (58%) (Q42) and large-scale commercial or industrial farms with prioritizing profit (66%) (Q31) and making a lot of money (62%) (Q34). 
    • Products that taste good (45%) (Q41) and healthy products (48%) (Q40) are more frequently associated with small farms than large-scale ones, while the latter is more often associated with the receipt of many financial subsidies (45%) (Q32), dependency on global market prices (47%) (Q36), and well-paid management staff (41%) (Q44).  

  • A large portion of Oregonians associates both small and large-scale farms equally with ensuring the state’s food security (51%) (Q27), ensuring food quality in the U.S. (49%) (Q28), and having well-trained employees (47%) (Q29). 

Beliefs About Farming and Agriculture

  • Respondents agree with four out of five statements about farming and agriculture, indicating very strong agreement with two of them (Q14-18). 

  • A strong majority of Oregonians agree that being able to produce our own food in the United States is critical to our national security (83% total agreement) (Q14). 
    • The agreement that self-sufficient food production is a necessary aspect of national security is highest among Oregonians aged 65 and older, as well as college graduates. 

  • Two out of three Oregonians agree that small-scale farms should receive more support from the U.S. government (75%) (Q15). 
    • Oregon residents with some college education are the most likely to agree with an increase in federal support for small-scale farms. 

  • Most Oregonians agree that large-scale commercial or industrial farms are necessary to ensure the food supply of the population (63%) (Q16). 
    • Men and Oregonians with school-aged children are more likely to agree that large-scale commercial or industrial farms are necessary to ensure the food supply of the population. 

  • Respondents are divided as to whether inexpensive food is more important than farm size, with 36% disagreeing somewhat or strongly, and 39% agreeing somewhat or strongly (Q17).  
    • Most likely to disagree with the statement that inexpensive food is more important than farm size are Oregonians aged 65-75 and college graduates. 
    • On the other hand, men were most likely to agree that inexpensive food is more important than farm size. 

  • Oregonians are also split when it comes to whether or not farmers must practice large-scale commercial or industrial farming in order to earn enough money, with 40% in disagreement and 30% in agreement with the statement (Q18). There were also high levels of ambiguity, with 15% of Oregonians stating that it depends on the type of crop. 
    • Oregonians aged 18-29 and those with a high school diploma or less are most likely to be in agreement that to earn enough money, farmers must practice large-scale commercial or industrial farming. 
    • In contrast, Oregonians ages 65 and above, as well as college graduates, were most likely to disagree that farmers must practice large-scale commercial or industrial farming to earn enough money. 

Important Qualities in Farming and Agriculture

  • Among a list of considerations for desirable components of farming and agriculture, Oregonians rank each consideration as important, and all but two considerations are considered important by more than 90% of Oregonians (Q19-25).  

  • Oregonians feel especially strongly about the importance of soil-, water-, and air-quality protections (Q23). A full 95% say these protections are important (83% very important; 12% somewhat important), and only 1% say they’re not important (1% not very important; 0% not at all important). Only a slightly larger proportion say they are unsure (3%). 
    • Oregonians who are most likely to classify soil-, water-, and air-quality protections as very important include women, white Oregonians, and those living in urban settings.  

  • 94% of Oregonians say a high level of employee satisfaction and safety (Q21) and locally grown food close to markets and customers (Q20) are very or somewhat important, and 93% say the same about animal quality of life (Q24) and small-scale farms (Q19). 
    • Women consistently prioritize each consideration within this tier as very important, and individuals who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming express a higher-than-average rating of very important for all considerations, except for small-scale farms. 
    • Oregonians with some college education but without a four-year degree exhibit a greater likelihood of considering small-scale farms, locally grown food, and animal wellbeing as very important. Those without college experience share this sentiment when it comes to animal quality of life. 
    • The only difference by area description within this tier of considerations is that individuals who live in urban areas are more likely to rate employee satisfaction as very important.  

  • Fewer Oregonians, but still a very strong majority, say lowest-cost products (83%) (Q25) and large-scale commercial or industrial farms (70%) (Q22) are important. 
    • Both these considerations are more likely to be rated as very important by Oregonians living in rural areas. 
    • Men are more likely than women to rate having large-scale commercial or industrial farms as very important. This represents the only category men are more likely to consider very important compared to women. 

Summation Quotes

Amaury Vogel, Associate Executive Director: 

  • “Oregonians recognize that agricultural food production is not only vital for stability within the state but also holds significance in terms of national security. They understand that a robust and sustainable food production system within their region contributes to the overall stability and resilience of their communities, as well as the broader nation.” 
  • “Oregonians acknowledge the importance of large-scale commercial and industrial farming in keeping food costs down, but they view small-scale farms much more positively. This sentiment aligns with other findings that highlight Oregonians’ preference for supporting small businesses over large corporations.” 
  • “Oregonians value and seek to preserve the place of small-scale farms within Oregon’s agricultural landscape and are in favor of increased government support to bolster these farms.” 
  • “Despite the impact of inflation in recent years, Oregonians feel other things are more important to have in farming and agriculture in the state than the lowest cost products.  Most important is protecting soil-, water-, and air-quality, a reflection of Oregonians’ long-standing shared value for maintaining and protecting environmental quality.” 

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 2,333 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and the data was weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. 

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample is ±2.03%. Due to rounding or multiple-answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

For More Information:

OVBC May-June 2023 Survey_Annotated Questionnaire Agriculture(1).docx 

OVBC May-June 2023 Survey_Tabs_Agriculture.pdf