From the Oregon Trail to the Port of Portland, Oregon history brims with instances of East meeting West, West meeting East. The Oregon produce industry mirrors this pattern with a broad range of fruits and vegetables grown across the state, from juicy sweet cherries and pears to bumper crops of onions and potatoes.
The Beaver State also enjoys a few industry milestones, from the very first Bing cherry trees in the 1800s to the first fresh blueberry exports from the United States to South Korea in 2011. A cascade of Pacific Northwest fruit shipments followed, moving by sea and air to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Plentiful production and successful marketing have brought rising recognition to Oregon’s growers and suppliers, leading to expansion for some and ramped up competition for all—as wholesale, retail, and foodservice formats vie for consumer dollars.
Growing Regions & Top Crops
Eastern Oregon is the hub of the state’s summer storage onion industry, with more than half of the region’s onion acreage located in Malheur County. Growers here, along with others in Umatilla, Morrow, and Marion counties contribute to the state’s ranking as third in the nation for production, providing 21 percent of the U.S.’s onion supply in various colors and sizes.
Grant Kitamura, partner at Baker & Murakami Produce Company, in Ontario, is particularly proud of his company’s industry contributions. “We’re famous for large onions—Jumbo, Colossal, and Super Colossal,” he says. As a shipper and exporter, Baker & Murakami handles yellow, white, and red onions from its own acreage and several multigenerational growers in the Treasure Valley region of Oregon and southwestern Idaho.
Umatilla and Klamath counties are leading potato production areas, contributing to Oregon’s rank as sixth in the nation. Uma-tilla County is also a major apple and watermelon producer, and grows sweet cherries and pears as well. Marion County, to the west of Umatilla, is home to state capital Salem, and grows potatoes, onions, and nearly half of Oregon’s garlic.
West of Umatilla is Hood River County, the largest pear production region in the United States. Not only is Oregon ranked second in the nation for production, but pears are the state fruit. The next county to the east, Wasco, is home to the famed The Dalles area, a top growing region for sweet cherries.
While potatoes, pears, and onions are Oregon’s most valuable produce crops, followed by blueberries, cherries, and apples, the state leads the nation in smaller-category commodities as well, such as blackberries, boysenberries, and rhubarb. Other production of note includes snap beans (most for processing), raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries, grown near the Pacific Coast.